July ,29 2015
ROW: Stand By Me
Hey everyone! As I recently picked up a stack of new books at the bookstore, I knew another instalment of 'Read It or Watch It?', or ROW, was in order. On the docket today is The Body by Stephen King and it's film Stand By Me. Part of a four-novella set, this particular story represents the season of autumn and has it's chapter suitably dubbed 'Fall from Innocence'.
The Body by Stephen King
Novella Published: August 27th
Movie Release: August 8th
, 1986 (under the title of Stand By Me
Time Between Book Release and Film: 4 years
Author Still Alive at Time of Film Release: Yes
On the last weekend of summer in 1960, Gordon “Gordie” Lachance sets out on journey that will leave his life permanently altered. Accompanied by his best friend, Chris Chambers, and fellow school friends Vern Tessio and Teddy Duchamp, the four young friends quest to find the dead body of missing local boy, Ray Brower. Along the way, the complications of small town living and dysfunctional family dynamics rise to the emotional surface, forcing the boys to come to grips with the realities of growing up in the lives they’ve been given.
I will start out by saying that though Stand By Me
is my favourite movie of all time
, The Body
is not my favourite novel. As strange as that may be, there are aspects of both film and book worth mentioning.
So is this a good book to film adaptation? I would say: yes. However, I have a few issues with a blanket yes or no answer. The first being the ending. In the novel, the story concludes with a reflective older Gordie explaining the life story of each of his friends ending with their sadly tragic demises. On the other hand, the film solidifies Chris’ peacemaker persona by only maintaining his death in the storyline. I felt the symbolism of Vern’s fears over coin flipping, where all the boys draw heads (a supposed bad omen) and are forced to flip again where Gordie solely gets a tails, was lost in the movie. Vern’s uneasiness that something bad will befall the boys is never brought to fruition and instead looks like mere childhood superstition. Including all the deaths could have made the connection more explicit which I know I would have praised.
A difference added to the film I quite enjoyed, partially because of John Cusack’s warm performance, was the character of Gordie’s brother, Dennis. In the novel, Dennis is the good yet older brother to Gordie who is tragically killed in a military jeep accident. A similar fate occurs in the movie, yet a closer relationship between brothers is explored. While no one else, aside from Chris, encourages Gordie to pursue his literary talent, Dennis is a driving factor in helping Gordie to realize his dreams are worth pursuing. I feel this helps connect Gordie’s feelings of loss more concretely in the novel and also contributes to why Gordie has such a strong love for writing.
One deletion from the novel I did not miss was the telling of Gordie's other short story. Since the novel includes instances of adult Gordie's writing between chapters, it is nice to see how his childhood has affected him throughout the years. The pain and lessons learned are easily conveyed in his words and give the reader a better sense of how Gordie is coping with his friends' losses. The film only explores the story of 'Lardass Hogan' (a heavier set boy who turns a pie eating contest into a barfarama) and acts as little more than comic relief. Told by Gordie as the boys sit around a campfire, the tale consists mainly of childhood fantasies of revenge and misses the chance for his friends to connect with him properly. Teddy and Vern, though enjoying the story, still encounter a disconnect with Gordie that, I believe, they are never able to change.
The aspect I enjoy most heavily about the film is one particular friendship parallel. Let me set the scene. Best friends Vern and Teddy walk in the foreground of the shot discussing the outcome of a hypothetical battle between Superman and Mighty Mouse. Meanwhile, the background consists of Chris and Gordie disputing the reality of how Gordie's brother's death has caused him to become the invisible child at home and Chris' worries about never proving himself better than his family's poor reputation. The scene translates from page to screen flawlessly and shows the two sides of the story. Yes, this is a story about the joys of childhood and the questions and concerns that seem relevant at that stage of life. But it is also about the difficulties and struggles that make us who we are today. One must overcome mountains before they can find where they truly belong.
The verdict then would be... drum roll please....
Read It or Watch It?: Read It
The extra details in the book are worth the read. More background provides an even deeper sense of how the boys interrelate and the troubles plaguing each one. The film is a beautiful adaptation and will not disappoint you, but something about this one almost screams the need to be experienced the first time in novel form.
Have you ever seen Stand By Me
or read The Body
? Let me know!