Movie Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
“One Man’s Struggle To Take It Easy”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara
Synopsis: A popular schoolkid decides that he, his girlfriend and his best friend will have a day off from school to remember.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reminds us of that brief golden moment in life when we now realise that anything was possible. School was nearly over, and summer beckoned, but adulthood was just beyond our reach – and was a place we weren’t yet sure we wanted to visit, anyway. John Hughes, the thirtysomething director of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off never seemed to lose sight of that adolescent perspective on life and back in the ‘80s he earned a reputation as king of the teen comedy, even though he only made a handful of them.
Ferris Bueller was arguably the best one. Ferris was the good-looking cool kid we wanted to be, and was, in fact, so cool he let us know it was ok if we were more like Cameron, his gawky, insecure best friend. Which, let’s face it, most of us were. He’s played by the doe-eyed, perpetually youthful Matthew Broderick (The Lion King) who, at 23, was six years younger than Alan Ruck, the actor who plays Cameron. These were not kids, but they pull it off, somehow. Although Ferris claims the title, the movie is really about Cameron: he’s the one who grows and matures in the course of the day, while Ferris remains unchanged, like one of Barrie’s lost boys. They’re joined by Mia Sara as Sloane, Ferris’s girlfriend, and the authority figure is provided by Jeffrey Jones (Amadeus), who gives a stand-out performance as Edward Rooney, the head teacher who goes to impossible lengths in his endeavours to prove that our hero really is playing hooky.
Ferris and Sloane and Cameron sure cram a lot in to one day. They steal Cameron’s unseen father’s Ferrari and get the better of a sniffy maitre’d at an expensive French restaurant before taking in a game at Wrigley Field and visiting a museum in which Cameron is beguiled by Georges Saurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. And all the while, Ferris keeps stepping aside to chat to us, as if we are the fourth member of their gang. It’s not all plain sailing, though: Ferris’s ruse is repeatedly in danger of being exposed thanks to Rooney’s dour tenacity. Rooney’s in a movie of his own, though, and shares only one brief scene with Ferris.
For someone who watched the movie as a teenager when it was first released, looking back on it now is like looking back on a day out of your own rather than some meaningless movie. It should feel episodic, but it never does, simply because Hughes pays so much attention to his characters. He makes sure we enjoy their company, and feel kind of sad to leave (which is why, perhaps, at the end of the movie, Ferris must shoo us away).
(Reviewed 30th September 2016)