Why I Love Ferris Bueller's Day Off
"The question isn't 'what are we going to do', the question is 'what aren't we going to do?'"
I grew up on John Hughes movies. I was introduced to them through my parents, who showed me Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I have already talked about why I love the latter, so let me take this time to argue for the greatness of the former. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a perfect film for young people, just as The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink were, and it is probably the greatest of John Hughes' teen comedies. It is incredibly funny and touching, Hughes proving again that he was one of the great writing talents of his generation. Ferris Bueller is a rejection of the pointlessness of school and the many demeaning, irritating ways that grown ups try to control the lives of young people. I never got on with secondary school - highschool to my American friends - and I had many horrible experiences trying to fit in there. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a celebration of the freedom that young people should follow in order to take control of their own lives.
Ferries Bueller, much like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, shows a deft hand at combining huge laughs with a really subtle, moving touch, that makes you care so much about the characters. Much of the emotional power of Ferris Bueller comes with the relationship between Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck, who are old, old friends. I think most people related to Cameron, rather than Ferris. I certainly know I did. The relationship where Ferris is always trying to help Cameron overcome his neuroses, reminds me quite a bit of my friendship with my best friend in the whole world, Conor. He has for more years than I can count been a guiding influence in my life, and has always intervened when my depression, anxiety and paranoia got too much for me.
There are many great scenes in Ferris Bueller, and a shout out has to go to the legendary Jeffrey Jones - who you may also know from his wonderful turn in Amadeus, which I discussed the other day - as Edward Rooney, the Principal of Ferris' school. The final scene in the movie, played over the closing credits, where he is forced to swallow his pride and take a ride on a school bus with his students who hate his guts, is brilliantly comedic. I also have to mention the famous Twist and Shout parade scene, which is probably responsible for giving me a life long love of The Beatles. Along with a hearty love for Michael Jackson, I think it was this scene which gave me a real desire to perform in front of people. It is so full of joy, a moment that could be right out of a classic musical. Some people found it difficult to square this scene with reality, but that's hardly the point; this is a joyous celebration of art that connects us as human beings. To feel that thrill of Ferris doing John Lennon is to feel the thrill of what it must have been like to have seen The Beatles in Shea Stadium, all those years ago.
My favourite scene in the whole movie takes place in the Art Institute of Chicago. Set to an instrumental version of The Smiths' song Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, Cameron takes the time to stare into the Georges Seurat painting A Sunday On La Grande Jatte. This moment in burned into my brain, and expresses so much about what I have come to believe about the power of art to heal and inspire. When I went to Chicago for the first time about ten years ago, this was the painting I wanted to see more than anything. It was one of the greatest moments of my life to see such a beautiful work, and to know that I was, like Cameron, getting lost in the painting. We went to many of the locations for the movie, as well as hitting up the high school from The Breakfast Club. Those were good times, and I worry that they will never be that good again.
Let's talk about Jennifer Grey because bloody hell is she funny! (And beautiful, it is such a shame that she felt the need to get a nose job, thus ruining in some large part her career.) Jeanie is in a perpetual state of irritation at the easy ride that her brother Ferris has, while she struggles to get by. She has some brilliantly funny lines in the movie, including the laugh out loud funny "If you say Ferris Bueller, you lose a testicle." Mia Sara is also lovely in the movie, a woman who you would kill for. She reminds me of a girl I used to know, who would always be up for an adventure. Alan Ruck is, as already mentioned, the emotional core of the movie. Without the excellent performance of Ruck, much of Ferris Bueller would fall flat. The scene near the end of the movie where he confronts the hatred he has for his father, by destroying his Ferrari, is arguably the best of the entire running time.
While we may be living in dark times where artworks that cross over a forever moving line are blacklisted and deemed "problematic," I don't think anyone can rightly question the quality of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It is a sublime bit of writing, acting and directing, and deserves to live forever. For those who struggle to fit in, for those who reject the crushing authoritarian element in going to school, when you could be doing something of real value, Ferris Bueller is a call to arms. "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."