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Matt's Stand by Me Review

Updated on October 8, 2011

Revisiting old classic “coming of age” films like Stand by Me, and The Breakfast Club make me realize that here is a place in film where “factual reality” is not necessarily the right thing to shoot for. That many of the events in Stand by Me are inspired by, or drawn directly from, Stephen King’s childhood, is not what makes this film such an outstanding classic. It’s more a matter of recalling the feeling of what it was like to be that age, and to bring the audience back to those days when they were young, and life was simpler. Good coming of age films are all about triggering that feeling of nostalgia. The films and the characters are not necessarily realistic, but the emotional journey is. Stand by Me is, in every possible aspect, an excellent coming of age film, particularly if you can identify with the friendships between the characters.

Observations

- This is not to be considered a realistic film. Like The Breakfast Club, the characters are written a little too cleverly for that. And it’s been argued that this film is overly sentimental in places, but I saw not one scene in this film that didn’t jive with me in one way or another. And all of the emotions expressed by the character rang true, at least to me.

- How you see this film is going to largely depend on who you are, and what your upbringing was like. That being said, I’ve met very few people who didn’t like this film.

Performances

- Child performances are hard, no doubt about it. A lot of directors don’t know how to work with kids, how to coax good performances out of them. In most cases, the role ends up doing very little aside from annoying the audience. I’m happy to say that this was not the case with Stand by Me. Rob Reiner managed to get a fine ensemble together for this film, and they all did great work carrying the film.

- The show-stopping performance in this film was River Phoenix, playing Chris, the leader. River would later go on to play young Indiana Jones in the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is in this film however, that River Phoenix exhibits his amazing emotional range. His premature death is one of the single greatest tragedies in the history of filmmaking, in my opinion, right up there with James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause).

- Look for a young Kiefer Sutherland playing the main villain of the piece, Ace. He is one nasty piece of work in this film, but he’s also got some of the best, most hilarious lines in the whole show.

Music, Cinematography and Special Effects

- The music in this film is awesome. A scary number of instantly recognizable songs populate the film including, but not limited to:

  • Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Rockin Robin – Bobby Day
  • Lollipop – The Chardettes
  • And of course, Stand by Me – Ben E. King.

- The Cinematography is also very good, lot’s a great landscapes and wilderness set pieces. Some might be a bit disappointed by the somewhat muted color scheme used by the director Rob Reiner, but I sort-of like it. It gives the film a vintage feel that’s very appropriate considering the type of film they were making.

- There are basically no special effects that you’d notice. Nothing will appear on the screen during the course of this film that doesn’t look believable. It’s one more thing about this film that makes it a timeless classic.

The Bottom Line

Stand by Me is one of those classics that everybody should see at least once.  When one makes a film, it’s hard to find universal appeal, but there are a few films out there that come close.  This may be one of them.  Currently on IMDB, Stand by Me has an 8.2 – less than 10 percent of voters rated it below 7 - how about that friends and neighbors!  This is not a realistic film, but the emotions this film elicits from the audience, and the memories this film brings back, those are real.  Maybe that’s the most important thing.  Still, I can’t stress enough how good this movie is.  Everybody should see it! 9/10.

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