Ferris Bueller's Day Off Review
One Man's Struggle To Take It Easy
Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Recently voted number twenty six in a pole of the top fifty comedy films of all time. Pretty good considering I felt there was precious little comedy in it. The film concerns one Ferris Bueller (Mathew Broderick) an extremely likeable high school student with limitless self confidence, that puts him in good stead with everybody, his parents, fellow students even the police. Everybody, that is, except his sister Jeanie and the Dean of Students, Ed Rooney. On the particular day in question Bueller decides to ditch school by faking an illness, and on that day take his friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), who is languishing in bed on the pretence off illness but actually in self pity, out on the town to Chicago. Together they conspire to get Bueller's girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) out of school and the three take Cameron's father's Ferrari 250 GT California to the Windy city to enjoy the day. Rooney is not fooled, however, and spends the day in a vain attempt at catching Bueller and thus keep him back a year in school.
On the surface of it (and the tag line) this very simple plot has a kid putting fun above all else, “how can I be expected to go to school on a day like this?” Indeed my first encounter with it produced the self same attitude. However, there is far more to it than that. Firstly and perhaps flippantly, one could review the film as a promotion for truancy without consequence. In fact, taking that approach one could state that the film promotes fun without responsibility, whereas in truth the film is actually saying the opposite. Bueller's plan for the day was to try and help Cameron come to terms with his parentage and instead of shrinking from his actions actually take responsibility for them and in doing so grow as a person to become a person. It is Bueller's selfless act, risking his own record for the sake of his friend that is the hidden message of the film. Hughes buries this story in the mirth of wit and slapstick, but scratch the surface and there is it, plain as day.
The film succeeds on many levels, not least the casting. Broderick was the ideal choice, though at the time Michael J Fox would have been just as easy. But it is with the other cast members that made the choice of Broderick the right one. Alan Ruck (nearly thirty at the time) had been working with Broderick on the stage, they where already friends and brought that chemistry to the set. The third main, Mia Sara, fitted into the group effortlessly and this triangle is the foundation on which the film stands firm. The supporting cast including, but not limited to, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Edie McClurg, Charlie Sheen and the sublime Ben Stein all fit their respective roles to a tee. They none have particularly demanding roles, but such is the skill of the characterisation that each has a peculiar trait that is instantly identifiable, instantly recognisable and as such the comedic potential is enormous. Strange then that watching this film again that I felt it was pretty light in comedy, oh sure there were moments of fun, but never any laugh out loud moments, or am I getting to old....?
Hughes has managed to craft a film that remains as relevant today as when it was created, the themes of friendship, uncertainty, sibling rivalry, parental attitudes (both good and bad) and responsibility are what keep the audience coming back each generation. What at first could be perceived an eighties individualism quickly expands into selfless friendship and bonding. Perhaps number twenty six is the rightful place in the comedy hall of fame after all, as a light comedy it is, but as an expression it is even better.