Kids bunk school all the time. We too need a day off from the early morning bus rides, hours and hours of dreary class work, dreadful teachers, suffocating uniforms and all the god-forsaken school rules. However no kid has ever or will ever have a day off like the one and only- *insert drum roll* Ferris Bueller. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off showed kids everywhere what having a really good day off feels like- expert faking out parents advice, calling the dean as your girlfriend’s father to get her off school, going to Chicago in your best friend’s father’s Ferrari, getting a table at a ‘snooty’ restaurant, watching a baseball game, seeing and literally imitating art in the Art Institute of Chicago and obviously Twisting and Shouting on a float in downtown Chicago.
That is just the top layer of the film. Like many other John Hughes classics, you have to go through it layer by layer, top to bottom, light to deep to get the various aspects of the film. Ferris is the perfect kid. He’s popular, charismatic, smart, insightful and can do anything that he wants. His one day off creates despair amongst everyone as ‘Save Ferris’ signs pop up all around the city, and a very helpful and slutty nurse is sent to him to make him ‘feel better’. He faces the very common problem of last year in school, and being close to your friends in those last days. He can be called the narrator, as he very often breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewers, telling them about various things in his life and mostly his best friend Cameron’s life. Matthew Broderick’s most memorable role, he is absolutely delightful as the incredible Ferris Bueller. The people onscreen and the one watching them all want to be his friend. I know this is a lousy comparison as Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out in 1986 and Skins in 2007, but he’s a nicer, cuter and less manipulative, all American version of the character Tony Stonem. In all probability Tony was loosely based on Ferris himself, his “On the Street Where You Live” being a bit like albeit not remotely as memorable or fun-filled as Ferris’ “Danke Shoen” and “Twist and Shout.” Ferris is the person who wants to preserve the little things in life, which he knows make it worth living. Constantly we are told by the other characters how he helps them with their problems. He can solve anything with wit and charm. Ferris is the guy for whom everything always works out, and you cannot even hate him for that as he tries to make everything work out for you as well.
The other very important character was that of Ferris’ best friend Cameron, played by Alan Ruck. He is the quintessential John Hughes teenager. Eternally frightened of and never loved by his parents, Cameron is the sadder character whose life is a total contrast to that of Ferris’. Again, he is like Sid Jenkins, except he is cuter and doesn’t wear glasses, and not that desperate to get laid- though Ferris does tell us that in his mind it is ‘the end-all and be-all of human existence’. And there is an obvious attraction between him and Ferris’ girlfriend Sloan, though nothing happens. I am going through a major French New Wave phase right now (will write about that soon) and I thought that if one mixes Cameron and Ferris, and adds a great deal of French, the result would be one very beloved Antoine Doinel. He has a very strong friendship with Ferris, who keeps trying to save him by doing daring things, and he makes Ferris happy by doing those things. Alan Ruck was considered for the role of John Bender in The Breakfast Club, and his character is like Bender’s in many ways also. On the outside he can put on accents and call the dean or a restaurant for a bit of fun, but his grief and anger is always built up inside. Apart from the Parade scene, which Ferris does for Cameron, my other two favourite scenes were of Cameron. The first was when he sees the Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. He keeps focusing on the painting until it becomes a set of dots. This shows his weakness of focusing on the problems of his life so much that he stops seeing or feeling anything else. Cameron is always scared of his parents, saddened by their fighting and, he gets sick a lot as that is the only thing that makes him feel better. The other scene is when he kicks his father’s precious Ferrari repeatedly to take out all his anger, and then it falls out of the window. This reminded me of the scene in Rebel Without A Cause when the inspector tells James Dean’s character to hit the desk to let go. The reason why he reminds me and probably many others of all these famous youthful characters is because he faces the many problems of identity, adjustment, happiness, confusion that all young people have to face and overcome in their lives. He is the sadness of our youth Ferris is the joy. Again, he reminds me of Harold and Ferris reminds me of Maude.
Another important character was Jeannie Bueller, Ferris’ sister. She is played by the Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey. While Cameron is understanding about Ferris’ popularity, Jeannie is envious. She hates the fact that he never gets caught. Throughout the film she is shown resenting people trying to ‘save Ferris’ until she meets the junkie played by Charlie Sheen (I was like WHAT??) in the police station who tells her that it is because probably of her own insecurities and inability to not get caught is what makes her hate Ferris so much. She too is a very obvious teen, envious of the popular but likeable nonetheless. Sloan, Ferris’s girlfriend and a potential future wife is played by Mia Sara is another character in the film. She is just normal and does not appeal to viewers as much as the above mentioned characters and that of the dean does. She is awfully pretty, and makes a cute girlfriend of a cuter Matthew Broderick. The last important character was that of the dean, Edward R. Rooney played by Jeffrey Jones. He is the arch nemesis, out to get the happy-go-lucky Ferris. He is the adult who cannot let kids have fun. He is a comedic villain, a lot like the bad guys of Home Alone and Baby’s Day Out (My Favourite John Hughes Films!). He and his adorable secretary, Grace have many hilarious conversations and the entire incident with the Bueller dog is quite funny. Ferris’ parents are highly desirable fools!
This film wouldn’t be the classic it is if it hadn’t been made by the superb John Hughes. John Hughes is amongst the only filmmakers who always focused on the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the tears and smiles of youth. His love for Chicago is apparent in the film. Many things in the film like the Cameron-painting scene are about his own youth. Also due to listening the White Album everyday of the shooting, there are many Beatles references in the film. The film has a broad appeal. Though it does show the anger and despair that teenagers from the 80s and even today face, it sugar coats it in the sweetest, most innocent, hilarious way- with witty lines and unforgettable characters. The scenes in the film are legendary- The Parade of course is a dream scene, all of Ferris’ narration, the ending when Ferris rushes home to ensure that his parents don’t catch him, despite running into them in the street many times, and the ‘actual’ ending in which Ferris talks to the viewers saying, “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home.”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is what I call one of those ‘good’ films in which there is humour, storyline, brilliant characters, epic lines, evergreen scenes, a deeper message and well, a happy ending. I know happy endings can get a bit cheesy, but films like these, where you fall in love with the characters, you never want anything bad to happen to them. I like drama sure, but I prefer films in which it’s not the only genre. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a look at life by a happy teenager, (if there ever was an oxymoron…) who has said it many times, and I repeat,
“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around one in a while, you could miss it.”