Some movies are nothing a more than pleasant distraction, while others have a lasting impact on you that time doesn’t diminish. For a particular generation, i.e., children on the 80’s, John Hughes movies hold a special place in our hearts. I gorged on his movies. I had a Saturday morning detention just like “The Breakfast Club,” though it was nowhere near as fun; “Sixteen Candles” was my greatest nightmare (my parents didn’t forget my 16th birthday, but my mom did forget my 18th); When I saw “Pretty in Pink” at 12 years old, I couldn’t wait to grow up and wear a pink dress to the prom (I went with teal instead.) While other John Hughes directed plenty of critically and commercially successful movies, it is his “teen comedies” that endeared Hughes to an entire generation, an affection that endures.
But for all the classic movies helmed by Hughes, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is in my opinion, his best. It’s sheer perfection. It speaks to so many of our basic needs and desires: freedom, fun, love, happiness. Oh, and getting over on your pisher boss/teacher/principle. It’s full of classic lines, iconic scenes and great music. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is one of those movies that’s so ingrained in popular culture, if you come across someone who hasn’t seen it, you wonder what planet they escaped from.
My mom took my brother, cousin and I to see “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” during the summer of 1986. As the movie opened with Ferris tricking his parents into falling for his phony illness, I nervously hoped my own mother wasn’t paying too much attention, just in case I needed to borrow some of his methods one day. I watched in awe as he got away with it; I was the Jeannie in my family; perpetually amazed at how my brother skated through life. Except, I too got the car, but I digress. Ferris’ sly manipulation of his parents should have been embarrassing, but it was so funny and inspired jealousy. You couldn’t possibly get away with that in real life. Ferris carries his mission off with such aplomb, you can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve.
The genius of the movie rests on Matthew Broderick’s charming shoulders. That impish grin, confident swagger and priceless conversations directly to the camera enticed me into going along with whatever Ferris wanted (Mathew Broderick’s wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, would try to emulate the ‘fourth wall’ technique to disastrous effect during the early seasons of “Sex and the City.” Mercifully, the producers dropped the gag.) Matthew Broderick was tailor-made for Ferris Bueller. Or maybe Ferris Bueller was tailor-made for Mathew Broderick. Either way, it was the perfect marriage of actor and character.
As Ferris plans his “day off” he commandeers his hapless buddy, Cameron to come along for the ride. Film critic, Richard Roeper has called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” a suicide prevention film, and seeing the sorry shape Cameron is in at the beginning of the movie, you can’t help but wonder if that’s exactly what Ferris thwarted. Don’t we all have that friend who’s kind of a mess? You applaud that the ultra- cool Ferris would take the decidedly geeky Cameron under his wing. Ferris’ second accomplice is his girlfriend, Sloane. Ferris was obviously crazy about her and that grounded his character so much, you could almost forgive him for stealing the Ferrari. Sloane was the epitome of cool; white leather fringe jacket, boots with shorts. Her outfit in the movie set the standard for 80’s high school chic.
Another aspect I love about “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is its reverence for Chicago. I went to high school on the North Shore (where many of Hughes’ movies are set) and have spent many a sweltering day at Wrigley Field hoping for a Cubs win. On my first visit to the Art Institute, I immediately sought out the Georges Seurat piece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte ” (the painting Cameron got lost in.) This movie made me fall in love with the city and to me is the quintessential love letter to Chicago. No, I’ve never seen “Blues Brothers” and yes, “High Fidelity” got it right for the most part; however, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” captured so many of the special and wonderful reasons why people consider Chicago the greatest city in the world (take that, New York.)
I could go on and on about the one liners (“Bueller…Bueller,” “Abe Frohman, the Sausage King of Chicago,” “He’s a righteous dude,”) the iconic scenes (the parking attendants taking the Ferrari for a spin, Grace and her pencils, the parade) and the music. When you get right down to it though, as much as I have seen this movie, I can watch it over and over again. The sign of a classic movie; you never get tired of it.
John Hughes would of course, have other successes after “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (the “Home Alone” movies, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” Uncle Buck”) but he never really achieved the flawlessness of this 80’s masterpiece. Sadly, John Hughes stopped making movies in the early 90s and died of a heart attack in 2009. According to Matthew Broderick, he and Hughes toyed with a sequel, but ultimately decided to let the movie stand on its own. While it seems we can never get enough days off, in the case of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” one was just right.