This review was originally written for French Toast Sunday as part of my USA Road Trip feature.
How much of an introduction do I really need to give Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? I’m hoping none but, as much as it pains me to say, there’s probably a few unenlightened souls out there who have yet to discover the wonder that is this film. Ferris (Matthew Broderick) is an unimaginably popular and enterprising teenager who, one day, decides to pretend to be ill and skip school. It’s something he’s perfected into an art form – this is far from his first game of hookey – but this time he’s roping in his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and hypochondriac best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck). Once the gang has been assembled and Ferris has “borrowed” Cameron’s father’s prized Ferrari, the trio head to Chicago for the best day they’ll ever have. Meanwhile, Ferris’ sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and the school’s Dean, Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) both suspect Ferris to be faking, and set about trying to bring him down.A little while ago I reviewed Back to the Future over on my own site, and I described it as being as close to a perfect movie as I’ve possibly ever seen. Ferris Bueller’s Day Offdoesn’t quite reach those dizzying heights of perfection, but damn does it get close. I’ve loved this movie from the first time I saw it, however I hadn’t seen it for at least five or so years, maybe more, so I approached this viewing with trepidation, knowing that other favorites from my younger years have come back to prove themselves less than stellar (hello, Space Jam). It therefore brings me great joy to say that not only did Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meet the impossibly high re-expectations in my head, it exceeded them, and left me severely annoyed that it had been so long since I last saw the film.For starters, this movie is funny. I don’t mean the occasional titter or chuckle, I mean a constant, never-ending, almost painful smile plastered across my ugly face throughout the entirety of the film. Every possible instance where humor could be drawn is richly plundered. Be it the realisation of Ferris’absence by his teacher (Ben Stein) and his now iconically droll repetition of “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller,” to Rooney’s secretary (Edie McClurg) pulling a steady stream of formerly lost pencils from whatever creature has died atop her head to provide that ridiculous hair cut. Even something as simple as Rooney attempting to be a badass by donning his sunglasses – and flipping up the hinged lens part – is accompanied by a musical sting that had me audibly guffawing.The performances throughout are excellent, particularly from the younger performers. Matthew Broderick is deservedly heaped with praise for his performance as the incredibly confident and sure of himself Ferris. In other hands he could come off as a complete and utter ass, but such is the power of Broderick’s charm that you just can’t help but like the guy. That’s the thing; when I was at school I was very much an anti-Ferris. Throughout my entire academic career I had a total of I think 1 sick day, which was actually comprised of two half days when I was sent home. I hated kids who would blow off school to dick around at home all day, and I’d feel sorry for the teachers who were supposed to be teaching these truants. By all rights, in this film Ferris is the antagonist to Mr. Rooney’s hero, but because Rooney is played to be such a detestable dick, and Ferris an unflappably cool dude, even the likes of myself side with the miscreant. Elsewhere, I’ve never been overly fussed with Mia Sara as Sloane. She looks pretty enough, but she doesn’t have much depth to her character, and seems present more as a way of proving Ferris is capable of growing up by the end of the film than to be a character in her own right. Jeffrey Jones is spot-on as Rooney. He goes a bit over the top in places, but always to comedic effect, and never too far. Where I’d like to place a little more praise than I have on previous viewings, however, is on Jennifer Grey, who in my opinion all but stole the film. Hers is a role I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to before, but she plays it really well, especially considering it’s fairly one-note for the majority of the film, right up until the end when it switches dramatically. She’s basically a bitch, but an entirely justified one, as she cannot get away with the slightest misdemeanour in front of her parents, whilst her brother walks upon a cloud of blamelessness. Her comedic chops here are impeccable, as are the various levels of fury and desperation she sinks to in order to rat Ferris out.Who am I kidding? The main reason I love this movie is Cameron Frye, as portrayed by Alan Ruck. If I were to attempt to describe my younger self to you by picking any two movie characters and merging them together, I’d probably pick The Breakfast Club‘s Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) and Cameron. It’s really just a coincidence that they’re both John Hughes characters. We’re given a lot of insight into these two characters lives outside of the day we encounter them upon, and they sound rather similar to my own. At the beginning of the movie, Cameron is an introverted, paranoid pessimist, terrified of doing anything for fear of disappointing or upsetting his parents. Granted I’m sure a lot of kids go through this, but that was my childhood through and through, as I too grew up in, as Ferris describes it, a house like a museum, where you’re not allowed to touch anything. My parents paid a not insubstantial amount of money to have their lounge curtains positioned correctly, and we were forbidden to ever alter them in any way, such as if we wanted to draw them to watch a film during the day! They’re still in the same position today, over ten years later, with the only interaction they’ve experienced being a weekly dusting. As you can tell, Cameron is a character I deeply identify with, even to this day. Unfortunately I never had a Ferris character in my life to instigate me standing up to my parents, but I don’t live with them any more so who gives a shit? I even did an art project whose focus was on Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the painting Cameron is fascinated by in the art museum sequence. The fact that Cameron is also part of one of my favorite movie phone calls – an early scene in which Rooney attempts to foil Ferris’ skiving plans but ends up very much the worse for wear afterwards – makes him one of my favorite movie characters ever, and certainly the best one in this film. Also, the next time you watch a film featuring Farley Granger (Rope orStrangers on a Train, for example) listen carefully to his voice, and tell me it’s not exactly the same as Cameron’s Mr. Peterson voice.In short, I love this film. Is there some bias in my opinion? Possibly. However, bear in mind a lot of other people love this film too – some of them even write for this site – and I sincerely hope they all did not have a similar childhood to myself and Cameron. If you’ve never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off then shame on you, and go watch it now. Now dammit. Now! Go!
Choose Film 10/10
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