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Growing Up in the Movies

Posted September 10, 2010 to photo album "Growing Up in the Movies"

To coincide with the release of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Nick Dawson looks at more movies in which teenage protagonists are thrust into the world of grown-ups.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Slide 3: Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941)
Slide 4: Los Olvidados (1950)
Slide 5: The 400 Blows (1959)
Slide 6: Harold and Maude (1971)
Slide 7: Stand by Me (1986)
Slide 8: Pump Up the Volume (1990)
Slide 9: Rushmore (1998)
Slide 10: Almost Famous (2001)
Slide 11: Rodger Dodger (2002)
Slide 7: Stand by Me (1986)

Slide 7: Stand by Me (1986)

When teens are ushered into the adult world, death (Harold and Maude) and a lack of parental presence (The Wizard of Oz, Los Olvidados, The 400 Blows) often are the cause. Or, in the case of Stand By Me, it's both of the above. Rob Reiner's 1986 movie, based on the Stephen King novella The Body, is about a ragtag group of teens that goes looking for the dead body of a missing boy rumored to be out in the woods. Gordie LaChance (Wil Wheaton), shunned by his father after the death of Gordie's favored, older brother Denny (John Cusack), is the leader of the group, which is made up of Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell). Like Gordie, the other boys also have problems––Chris is from a family of criminals and alcoholics, Teddy wears a hearing aid because his mentally disturbed father maimed him, and Vern is bullied because of his weight – and over the course of their rite of passage quest for the body, we see that they rely on each other more than their families. Writing at Pop Matters, Nikki Tranter says of Stand By Me, “This idea of realizing -- to a degree -- the complexities of adulthood within childhood and the effects of this most problematic of human transitions is at the core of this film. Each of these four kids …undergoes moments of genuine emotional transformation in the film. This is especially true for Gordie, who learns, only by looking back over the years…,  that the biggest lesson, the strength gained from childhood friends, experiencing the same changes as you in the same innocent time, is impossible to replicate in adulthood. The film doesn't triumph youth. Instead, it confronts the pain of childhood directly, without manufacturing the sympathy afforded his characters through some poor-me kind of sentimentality.