Stand By Me (1986)
Shocked by the surprise news of the death of a dear friend, writer Gordie Lachance reminisces about a strange experience he and some friends had in the summer of 1959. After learning that a stranger has been accidentally killed near their rural homes, four Oregon boys decide to go see the body (and hopefully become heroes to the town). On the way, Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) encounter a mean junkyard owner, a marsh full of leeches, and their own nested-flashback nightmares as they also learn more about one another and their very different home lives. What starts out as a lark becomes a defining event of their lives.
It’s easier to make memories as a kid. Everything is new. There are fewer days behind you, crowding the frame. The power of the connections you make in childhood resonates for the rest of your life. Stand by Me, based on a Stephen King short story (but what isn’t?) and directed by a young Rob Reiner, grapples with the psychic weight that the past takes on, and how it impacts the future. And the movie itself can’t avoid carrying that weight — the four young stars, like the characters they play, found themselves in the same place in this moment but ended up on very different paths. Jerry O’Connell had a film career he transitioned to voice over and TV; Wil Wheaton got stuck in the Star Trek system and had to reinvent his own showbiz persona to break out of it; Corey Feldman became a genuine superstar, but burned the candle at both ends and lived a tragic life of exploitation and abuse; and, most tragic of all, River Phoenix died of a drug overdose just a few years after Stand by Me’s release.
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