I saw Stand By Me in the theatre, way back in 1986, projected onto one of those wee little screens at the Eaton Centre Cineplex that was then reckoned to be one of the wonders of the age, with something like 21 screens in one complex, each seeming about the same size, from the perspective of where you sat in the miniature odeon, as the flatscreen in your living room does today, except with poorer sound and a crappier armchair – but oh, the popcorn. That popcorn drenched in hydrogenated palm oil, OMG, yum, you just can’t replicate that at home, in fact, I think it’s actually illegal to try, at least here, under Health Canada rules, or possibly it’s some UN Convention we signed on to, something about the environment, general human welfare, or maybe weapons of mass destruction, something like that.
Yuuuuummmmmm….fluffy popped corn kernels drenched in buttery hydrogenated palm oil…..
Where was I?
Oh yeah, Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner, based on a short story by Stephen King, which featured outstanding performances by the kids on screen, whose boyish, pre-adolescent interplay, all the squabbles, affirmations, and emotional outbursts, made most of us guys feel as if we were back in our own childhoods, with our own best buddies from when we were kids, obsessing over stupid boy things, singing TV themes, walking the train tracks (such a huge part of my own childhood), and learning hard lessons about honour, decency, courage, and how hard it was to have any of any of those attributes, or to do what’s right when the bullies come to push you around. My own youth was a years-long festival of being humiliated by bullies, so for me it was one of those indelible theatre moments, sitting there, watching young thug Kiefer Sutherland putting the knife to brave River Phoenix’s throat, feeling all the old, sickening fears, when suddenly comes that moment of sweet salvation: little Wesley Crusher, er, Gordie LaChance, levelling the barrel of the gun he took out of somebody’s dresser drawer at home (hey, it’s America), and forcing the much older, malevolently menacing punk to back the fuck down, and eat shit while he’s at it.
At the climax of the confrontation, Sutherland, “Ace” in the film, gestures to his little gang of thugs, and says “What’re you gonna do, shoot us all?”.
No Ace, responds Gordie, just you.
I can think of maybe a half dozen times in my whole life when anything made me feel that gratified.