As we start setting our sights on the fall season, kids also have to start setting their sights on their homework and class schedules. I don’t. (Ha!) But that just means I’m of a certain age. So, in my ‘old age’ that’s not really old age but is fun to say old age because that’s just the excuse going around right now, I want to do some reflecting back on movies about school or that are about the education process. Some people might find this topic a little lame, and to those folks I say: go stick on a dunce cap and sit in the corner. 😉 My overly-confident-sounding tone is brought to you by
Today’s food for thought: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (wink)
Rudely interrupting parades in a completely unconvincing fashion since: June 11, 1986
Some movies might just be better left in the past. After all, memories can last a lifetime. Sadly, there’s a caveat to that, as over time memories tend to start romanticizing rather than simply recalling events and experiences. Just because they may last forever doesn’t mean they necessarily remain accurate. While I wouldn’t say my memory has failed me when it comes to John Hughes’ too-cool-for-school comedy, I kind of regret going back to this movie. What was so wrong with keeping my memory of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the way it was?
I don’t remember this kid being such a jerk and so entitled. I don’t remember the writing being so atrocious. Of course, I recall pretty much all the mischief he and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) got into over the course of a single day but Bueller’s allergy to altruistic behavior seems to be something that escaped Younger Me. Ah, Younger Me. Damn you for having things so easy. That me could just sit there and take a movie in and enjoy it. That me could appreciate a movie being just about playing hooky and nothing else. The plot’s still just as digestible and unobtrusive, built out of simple pleasures, like getting to flip the middle finger to those in authority. Now, simplicity actually draws attention to other things.
After so much time you start to realize how many scenes have been parodied past the point of recognition. You are more familiar with the parodies than the original scene(s), although this is by no means the fault of Hughes or his cast. Over time the tone of said parody has also changed. What were once reverential spoofs have become innumerable opportunities to cash in on trendiness. When Cameron’s scream echoed throughout all of Chicago, having realized how many miles they had just put on his father’s Ferrari by driving it around all day, I had to remind myself that what I was watching was the actual scene; this wasn’t a parody.
In some ways Ferris Bueller is a parody of life at the teenage level. Wanting to skip a day of school remains a timeless, fairly universal experience — I’m pretty sure I faked being sick once or twice — and the character continues to represent that part of us that wishes we had more control over the things we don’t want to deal with. In the annals of cinema history he’s a hero for his principled stand. And for pulling one over mom and dad — though this is much less impressive when he’s raised by parents only slightly more capable than Bam Margera’s. This time Hughes is nauseatingly optimistic, far more concentrated on getting as far away from the doldrums of high school where poor Ferris heretofore has had to suffer years of being generally well-liked. Woe as him.
Unlike much of Hughes’ work, Ferris Bueller is far more screwball comedy than coming-of-age. In fact it’s actually more akin to fantasy than comedy. Everything comes together so perfectly (for Ferris, not so much for poor Cameron or Jeffrey Jones’ Principal Rooney) and despite developments that threaten to derail the perfect day — losing the Ferrari temporarily to someone posing as a valet driver who takes it for a joy ride; almost getting caught on TV while at a baseball game; an extremely determined Principal Rooney hot on Ferris’ heels — there’s never any doubt that things will work out. There is very little conflict and even less consequence: we never get to hear the conversation Cameron has with his dad; never see what becomes of Ferris’ classmates rallying behind him, hoping that he makes a speedy recovery from ‘being sick;’ never get to find out why these parents are just so . . . bad at parenting.
Gee golly willickers, I find myself sharing Jeanie’s point of view now more than Ferris’. (And also my dear friend Zoe’s. Feel alone no longer, Zoe, for I too share some of your pain in watching this movie. 😉 ) Like his sister I’ve always been amazed at the things Ferris manages to get away with without being remotely apologetic. I’m not sure how I feel about comparing myself to this person because, as I’ve found, I regard Jeanie as a bit of a bitch. Of course, it’s nothing that a quick make-out session with a visibly stoned Charlie Sheen at the police station can’t cure. Maybe I, too, should have made out with him, thus allowing myself to enjoy some time off from movie watching with an embittered, overly judgmental mindset. Maybe then I would be able to still look at this creation as art instead of artifice.
Recommendation: I have confirmed this is one of those movies I enjoyed far more as a wee lad, and not so much as a jaded adult. Kind of sad, right? It’s not that I find Ferris a rather unlikable fella (I think many can agree on that point), but I remembered this movie being just a little bit more believable. John Hughes constructs such a ridiculous series of events, suggesting if you plan to skip out on school (or work) you better have other, far more elaborate plans to enact lest you completely waste that day. A movie that’s far easier (and fun) to buy into as a kid than an adult.
Running Time: 103 mins.
TBTrivia: After working together on Weird Science (1985), John Hughes offered Bill Paxton the role of the garage attendant. Paxton turned it down because he felt the role was too small. He admits that he regrets turning it down because Hughes never offered him a role again.
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