A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 562 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – September 13th, 2011

My high school has a ditch day tradition. I suspect it’s not alone in this, but I’m not sure just how widespread the phenomenon is. The deal is that the senior class secretly decides on a day and then ditches school all together. In the past there have been classes that organized group activities and classes that just let everyone do whatever. Mine was going to be a do whatever class. The unwritten rule at the school was that the more classes you cut the worse the punishment was, but to spare kids who missed a day without calling in instant suspension for missing so many periods of class, the maximum number of cuts assigned for missing a full day was two, which earned you a detention spent doing some form of community service on school grounds. Then the administration announced, my senior year, that on ditch day they would be counting every class missed by a senior as a cut. Most of the class ended up not going. But it was a beautiful day, I had no cuts racked up prior to that, and only three of my classes were actually scheduled to meet that day and two of the teachers had let it be known that they wouldn’t be reporting cuts. So I ditched, along with two of my friends. We went and got pizza and brought it back for our friends who couldn’t.

My point here is that this movie feels like how I expected ditch day to feel. And while I didn’t sing and dance in any parades or steal a fancy car from a friend’s father or pretend to be the sausage king of the midwest, I did have a fun day with friends and since I got no punishment for it whatsoever, I think I can safely say that I got away with it. Still, I was no Ferris Bueller in high school. And I wasn’t a Sloane or even a Cameron. I wasn’t a Jeanie either. But the thing about John Hughes’ early high school-based movies is that despite the wild nature of some of the events, the characters feel authentic. Did you know a guy like Ferris? Or a girl? Someone effortlessly cool who was somehow friendly with everyone? Who did outrageous things and got away with them? I did.

Granted, Ferris Bueller should irritate the crap out of me. What a twerp! Lying to his parents, concocting an elaborate rig to make it look like he’s home sleeping, hacking into his school records to change his number of absences, not to mention the whole thing with Cameron’s father’s car. And okay, the thing with Cameron’s father’s car pisses me off. But the real trick here is that Ferris is just that charming. He can do these things and let’s face it, this movie is well loved by many. It’s a classic. We’re not all watching it to shake our fists at Ferris and sympathize with his principal, Mr. Rooney. We watch because we want to see Ferris and Sloane and Cameron and their day of ditching school to have fun in Chicago. That’s the point.

It feels silly to recap the action of this movie. Unlike, say, The Breakfast Club, this movie pretty much is what it says: It’s about Ferris Bueller’s day off. But it’s the details that are important here. Ferris doesn’t just ditch school. He feigns being sick and does it well enough to convince his parents to call in for him. He uses a high tech synth system to create the sound of coughing and sneezing and snoring. And then he takes off, having convinced his best friend, Cameron, to come pick him up. Cameron has a car, you see, and Ferris does not. It’s the tragedy of his life. And you know, to a guy like Ferris, who is capable of convincing anyone of anything and tricking people into doing things for him? Not getting a car when he wanted one would certainly seem like a tragedy, I’m sure. My heart bleeds for him. But it’s necessary for the plot. They concoct a phony death in the family to get Ferris’ girlfriend out of school, then Ferris wheedles his way into Cameron’s father’s prized car, which said father spends oodles of time on and knows every inch of and certainly knows the exact mileage to the quarter mile. They take the car into the city and proceed to have an exciting day out.

Now, before I get to the actual events of the day, let’s talk about the car. Because the car is key to Cameron’s character arc, but it’s also the thing that bothers me most. Most everything else Ferris does he either does along with his friends, or he does it alone and if he gets in trouble well, he’s the one taking the fall. The car, on the other hand, isn’t his and it isn’t his friend’s. He’s setting Cameron up to get in trouble for him. He claims they’ll take the added mileage off by driving it backwards. And maybe if Ferris was going to be trying to explain to his own father how an off-limits car got more mileage, he could get away with it. He is Ferris, after all. But Cameron isn’t Ferris. He’s Cameron. He’s not charismatic and charming. He’s the straight man. And while the wreckage of the car at the end is Cameron’s doing, and he says he’ll take the blame because he’s sick of being ignored by his parents and he’s glad it happened, think for a moment what would have happened if the car hadn’t gotten wrecked. The only thing that makes it not ruin things for me is that Cameron and his father do need to deal with things. Cameron does need to confront his father. And by the time it happens, he’s already had a bit of an epiphany.

It’s not really a deep movie, by any stretch of the imagination. There are little moments of depth, mostly toward the end, where the movie lets its characters think about the future and how they relate to each other and how they relate to their families. But only Cameron really gets much of a breakthrough – that being said, I love Cameron’s journey through the movie. He has my very favorite moment in the whole thing when the three of them are in an art museum and he’s staring at a Seurat painting and the camera alternates between increasingly close shots of his face and of a child in the painting. The whole museum segment is a fantastic bit of quiet in the middle of an otherwise raucous day. Alas, Sloane gets very little in the way of background or depth and Ferris isn’t about to have any grand realizations. If he did he wouldn’t be Ferris. His sister does get a bit of depth, mostly along the line of figuring out that she’s got to stop focusing on Ferris and do her own thing. But that’s it right there: What everyone learns is that Ferris is awesome. But that’s sort of the whole point of the movie, regardless.

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September 13, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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