DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
Stand By Me is a film that has been cast well, it strikes all the right notes comically, emotionally, and understands the story it wants to tell. The film builds on nostalgic reflection as an adult writer thinks to his teenage years.
The four stars at the beginning of their young career act to perfection. You have River Phoenix playing Chis Chambers the leader of the four who is gripping with the “rebel” tag that the teacher has given him because of stolen milk money. Wil Wheaton playing Gordie Lachance “the grieving brother” and “overlooked son” of the family. Cory Feldman chaotically acts as Teddy Duchamp the “looney” while Jerry O’Donnell is the “nobody” Vern Tessio. They set out on an adventure to find a dead body in this coming-of-age film that is ageless.
They want to find the body to seek fame and fortune to be local celebrities, heroes of the day in the newspaper. They expose their personal journeys to each other during the physical journey and share their innermost secrets.
You follow Gordie Lachance coming to terms with the past death of his brother and now Gordie is relegated to living in the shadows. Gordie’s strength is writing and storytelling but his father wants him to be more like the brother that has since passed away. A telling scene shows you the humanness and natural dialogue between Chris Chambers and Gordie Lachance while walking the railtracks.
Gordie: Fuck writing, I don’t want to be a writer. It’s stupid. It’s a stupid waste of time.
Chris: That’s your dad talking.
Chris: Bull true. I know how your dad feels about you. He doesn’t give a shit about you. Denny was the one. He cared about and don’t try to tell me different. You’re just a kid, Gordie.
Gordie: Oh, gee! Thanks, Dad.
Chris: Wish the hell I was your dad. You wouldn’t be goin’ around talkin’ about takin’ these stupid shop courses if I was. It’s like God gave you something, man, all those stories you can make up. And He said, “This is what we got for ya, kid. Try not to lose it.” Kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too fucked up to do it, then maybe I should.
After Chris gives encouragement to Gordie you hear a story told by a campfire about Davey Hogan and a pie eating contest. The simple story is something that any twelve year old would find funny and to this day both adults and children will chuckle watching the scene played out.
This film is about self discovery and coming-of-age. Anybody can learn a lesson from these characters.
Chris has a moment of reflection to which Gordie helps him out as a close friend.
Chris: It’s what everyone thinks of my family in this town. It’s what they think of me. I’m just one of those low-life Chambers kids.
Gordie: That’s not true.
Chris: Oh wait, it is. No one even asked me if I took the milk money that time. I just got a three day vacation.
Gordie: Did you take it?
Chris: Yeah, I took it! I mean, you knew I took it. Teddy knew I took it. Everyone knew I took it. Even Vern knew it, I think. But maybe I was sorry and I tried to give it back.
Gordie: You tried to give it back?
Chris:Maybe. Just maybe. And maybe I took it to Old Lady Simmons and told her, and the money was all there. But I still got a three day vacation because it never showed up. And maybe the next week, Old Lady Simmons had this new suit on when she came to school.
Gordie: Yeah, yeah! It was brown and it had dots on it.
Chris: Yeah. So let’s just say that I stole the milk money, but Old Lady Simmons stole it back from me. Just say that I told this story. Me, Chris Chambers. Kid brother to Eyeball Chambers. Do you think that anyone would’ve believed it?
Chris: And do you think that that bitch would have dared try something like that if it had been one of those douchebags from up on the view, if they had taken the money?
Chris: Hell no! But with me?… I’m sure she had her eye on that skirt for a long time. Anyway, she saw her chance, and she took it. I was the stupid one for even trying to give it back.
[begins to cry]
I just never thought a teacher… Oh, who gives a fuck anyway? I just wish… that I could go some place… where nobody knows me. I guess I’m just a pussy, huh?
Gordie: [comforting] No way. No way.
This film works on multiple levels and has enough pathos to move you while watching one story about four kids trying to make their own way to find a dead body.
Wil Wheaton as Gordon Lachance
River Phoenix as Chris Chambers
Corey Feldman as Teddy Duchamp
Jerry O’Connell as Vern Tessio
John Cussack as Denny Lachance
Kiefer Sutherland as Ace Merill