Stand By Me
October 8, 2011
I picked up the DVD of this in a bargain bin, but avoided watching it for awhile because I knew it’d be pretty rough going. I’d get nostalgic and maudlin and end up sobbing into my bottle of wine. When Stand By Me came out in 1986, I was 13, and the same age as the main characters. My friends and I all loved it because it was a serious movie about kids like us (and had kids swearing!). And then there was Gordy, who wanted to be a writer like I did. Also, I hadn’t seen the movie since River Phoenix died, which I still haven’t gotten over.
But I finally watched it, and the movie hit me hard in a way I was not expecting, because I had completely forgotten that the first scene is of Richard Dreyfuss, “The Writer,” i.e. Gordy grown up. He’s sitting in the truck, grief-stricken and numb, and I thought, “Holy crap, he’s the age I am now.”
It’s the shock of watching an old movie and seeing an actor who I’m used to thinking of as quite a bit older than me (my parent’s age, in fact) at my actual current age, which feels a little like time travel. But there was more to it, since like Gordy, I did what I wanted to do and grew up and became a writer. Stand By Me: still relevant to my life, and who’d have thunk?
Other than that, it’s a good movie, but I find it difficult to be objective, since for me, half a lifetime on, it’s more like looking at an old yearbook than watching a movie. I kept thinking of how young I was, how young everyone looks (even Keifer Sutherland has a little baby fat going), how I’d forgotten John Cusack was in it, and so on.
I didn’t have the kind of childhood the movie depicts, a close-knit group in an iconic small town. I’m only in touch with one of my friends from that time, and that’s only Christmas cards once a year (we’ve ended up in very different places in our lives). Because we moved so much, my childhood sometimes felt like being in a theater where the projectionist kept changing reels to a new movie before the current one had finished. Maybe I’ll write about my childhood someday, like Gordy. But I think I’m still processing it.