Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stand By Me: The Best Movie Ever About Young Adults

Based on a semi-autobiographical novella by Stephen King, the film is about four small-town twelve-year-old boys who trek off to find the body of a missing kid after they heard he was hit by a train. The plot itself is actually secondary to the coming-of-age (and loss of innocence) of these characters during the journey. Though the film takes place during the 1950s, and offers a nostalgic look at that era, its themes are still universal, and relevant to anyone who’s ever gone through the pains of adolescence: alienation from parents, not fitting in, loss of a loved one, child abuse, feeling trapped by one’s environment, uncertainty about the future, bullying, etc.

At the same time, the entire movie isn’t quite that serious; a lot of screen time is dedicated to what’s truly important to a kid: hanging out with your friends, getting into trouble, what’s popular at the time, swearing, doing things that are taboo, discovering girls are different from boys.

The film is rated R for good reason, even though there’s no actual sex or violence. These kids swear, smoke, dis each other’s mothers and boast about their own private parts. At the same time, it’s never gratuitous. Though I grew up in a different decade, with decidedly different personal interests, I distinctly remember doing a lot of the same stuff when I was that age. And that’s what I appreciated about the movie...the way it lovingly depicts the way even decent kids can behave when outside of the watchful eye of their parents. Times may change, but how many of us don’t look fondly back when surrounded only by our friends, at that crucial age before the world became more complicated?

Runners-up: American Graffiti, The Bad News Bears (1976 version), Dazed and Confused, Napoleon Dynamite (I still don’t get it, but kids do, and it’s the most low-key movie ever aimed at ‘em), Heathers, the first half of Christine.

The Worst: Friday the 13th and Porky’s. Not only do these two films portray young adults as oversexed idiots seeking sexual conquest, or fodder at the hands of a machete-wielding maniac, the characters are played by actors obviously well into their twenties, an assault to the intelligence of real teenagers at whom these movies were aimed. Worst of all, they were huge hits, and spawned an dark era in Hollywood when blood, boobs and bong-hits were all a producer needed in his movie to rake in cash from kids who didn’t know any better.

D.M. Anderson

1 comment:

Pam Ripling said...

Great overview. I like Stand By Me as well. My 13 y/o daughter and her friends love Napoleon Dynamite. I'm not quite sure, either. Maybe because it's so unchallenging?