"The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them-words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too lose to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear." (Different Seasons e-book: Loc. 5497)
The most jarring differences I noticed while reading were that Gordie's brother died in a military jeep accident whereas he died in a car accident in the movie, there is a short story included in the novella that I am so happy they left out of the film, there is a scene where all the boys think they see the ghost of Ray Brower in the woods, and the ending is different. (I'll go into that in a second) At first, I thought there was something wrong with my ebook because the aforementioned short story is more adult than much of the film. "Stud City" is a fairly graphic story written by the narrator (Gordon Lachance) when he was in college, and describes a young man devirginizing a girl and then arguing with his father and stepmother. The story is included to show the immaturity of some of the narrator's early published writing and how he integrated the feelings and effects of his brother's death into his writing. King's books are often set in Maine, but Stand By Me was moved to small-town Oregon. I don't find this change to have any detrimental effect to the film, as the feelings of nostalgia and remembering childhood friendships are going to happen no matter where the story is set. (plus, having been to both places, rural Oregon and rural Maine look pretty similar) I always assumed Gordie's nightmare on that final night was about the death of his brother but the novella has his character dreaming about he and his friends drowning after a conversation he had with Chris about how your friends can sink your future. And I think we can all thank some higher power (or the universe) that they did not include the leech on Gordie's testicles exploding in his hand in the movie. Some things can never be unseen.
Rob Reiner states in the director's commentary of the DVD that they were unsure what they would call the movie but they knew they wanted to use Ben E. King's song in the soundtrack. I don't blame them--how many songs can you think of that are so achingly sad? I totally shed some tears looking up the song on Youtube, but I suppose it doesn't help at all that I was listening to Reiner speak about River Phoenix and what a loss his death was to everyone. Phoenix sold Chris Chambers' character down to the ground and I must admit that I often felt like Phoenix might've been a little like Chris Chambers in real life. One of my favorite scenes, which was lifted straight from the book, is when Chris talks to Gordie about what they'll do after the summer is over and how they'll get split up. Chris says, "I wish to f*ck I was your father!...You wouldn't go around talking about taking those stupid shop courses if I was! It's like God gave you something, all those stories you can make up, and He said, This is what we got for you kid. Try not to lose it. But kids lose everything unless somebody looks out for them and if your folks are too f*cked up to do it then maybe I ought to." (Loc. 1250) I always thought that scene was so profound--two 12-year-olds "getting" the inevitability of life for so many people and it goes on for a few pages in the novella. Two or three pages that are even better than the movie, which I didn't think was possible.
At the end of the movie, the boys get to the body, Ace and his friends come in their car, Gordie gets Chris's gun out of the bag and threatens them until they leave. Flash forward to them walking back into town and the voice over narrator talks about what happened to each character. In the novella, Gordie insults Ace and his friends and Chris gets the gun and threatens everyone. Afterward, Chris is very affected and they walk back the way they came. Each of the boys is jumped by Ace's crew and their injuries are discussed. The narrator talks about what happened to each character but it is different than the film--by the time the author wrote the story, Vern had died in a fire, Teddy died in a car accident, and Chris died in the knife altercation mentioned in the film. Vern's brother, Ace, and their friends have a lot more screen time than they do in the book, for sure. The movie is really Gordie's story, maybe even moreso than the book, so even though it was not the same, it was just as powerful and made Gordie's character express his pent up emotions. The ending quote of the film, "I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" is such a perfect way to end the film. I'm not surprised it was King who wrote those words. The screenwriters lifted them from the middle of the novella and inserted them perfectly into the end of the script. Great choice, in my opinion.
Here's the playlist:
1. Buddy Holly - Everyday
2. Shirley & Lee - Let The Good Times Roll
3. The Del Vikings - Come Go With Me
4. The Del Vikings - Whispering Bells
5. The Silhouettes - Get A Job
6. The Chordettes - Lollipop
7. The Coasters - Yakety Yak
8. Jerry Lewis - Great Balls of Fire
9. The Bobbettes - Mr. Lee
10. Ben E. King - Stand By Me
*Special note: If you were ever wondering what the barf is in the pie-eating contest, it is large curd cottage cheese and blueberry pie filling.
Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think of them?