Ferris Bueller's Day Off screened this past Sunday, August 8th, at Toronto Underground Cinema as part of director Edgar Wright's Wright Stuff film series. If you haven't guessed by now, this is the part where I tell you to go check out his latest film, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, in theatres now. Don't wait until a bargain Tuesday or anything like that. It is worth the full price of admission.
I think like a lot of film fans, I can think of maybe 4 movies that I will never get sick of watching because I love them so much, but I would be hard pressed to make enough cuts to come up with a top ten list of my favorite films of all time. I can't quite tell if it is simply because of the time period that I grew up in or because I genuinely admire him as a writer, but John Hughes would have two movies on that list that are actually only one of four movies I know would have a locked in place. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of those films and considering Hughes' output as the master of teen and familial angst, it is actually an anomaly in his filmography.
Hughes is probably best known for his more high school centered trilogy of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science. There is a good reason why these films are packaged together quite often as a box set, and that is because they cover a lot of the same ground, but with different amounts of pathos and from different perspectives. They are all wonderfully written films and The Breakfast Club would probably just barely miss being the third Hughes film to make my favorite movies of all time list. What sets Ferris apart from these films, however, is the fact that just like the title character, the movie is so laid back that it simply allows things to happen rather than forcing situations to move the plot forward. Weird Science and Sixteen Candles are really entertaining, but I think we can all admit that to some degree they push the plot sometimes a bit too hard.
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) wants to live a life of simple luxuries. He has been given a technological gold mine by his parents (but not a car) to pretty much fake sick as many times as he wants and even has the means to fix his own records at school. Ferris wants his neurotic best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck, giving the best performance in the film full of great ones) a great time before they part ways for college, possibly to never see each other again. Ferris also has a fiercely loyal girlfriend in Sloan Peterson (Mia Sara) who often accompanies them on their adventures.
On the other end of the equation there is Principal Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) and his secretary Grace (Edie McClurg) who are trying to use Ferris as an example. Ferris knows that in order to make an illness seem real, everyone has to believe it, and outside of Cameron and Sloan, no one else knows Ferris isn't really on death's door. It seems like the entire community is rallying around Ferris, but I am sure if anyone stopped them to ask what they heard, you would get several different answers. Rooney feels that Ferris is an affront to his control over the student body and decides to take a day off himself and take to the streets in an effort to take him down once and for all.
Ferris Bueller is ultimately a comedy about a snot nosed priviledged jerk who shows sociopathic behavior and doesn't want to do anything or take any sort of real responsibility. You can never tell for sure that he doesn't want to do anything in his life, he simply seems unengaged by the one he has now. This is normally the type of film I simply detest, but it has enough charm and wit to fuel a hundred movies instead of just one. Most social class based comedies actually forget to be funny (Royal Tenenbaums I am looking squarely at your unfunny and punishingly annoying ass), but Bueller manages to make jokes that everyone can understand and relate to even if they can't relate to the situation. Who hasn't wanted to take the day off from work? Who hasn't wanted to work their way into a fancy restaurant? Who hasn't dreamed of being the center of attention in the middle of a parade? Ferris Bueller is wish fulfillment at its best, and if you think about it, class doesn't really play into the things he is able to pull off. Instead, he uses cunning and smarts to outwit Rooney and keep his own parents in the dark.
Being able to watch this film on the big screen is probably my favorite highlight of the TUC thus far. I didn't even realize it, but I knew pretty much the entire movie by heart. I had to stifle myself to keep from laughing at the jokes before they even arrived. For the longest time Ferris Bueller was my "good time" movie. If I had a rough day, I would go home and watch it and pretty soon all the crappy feelings of the previous day would simply melt away. Edgar Wright stated that Ferris Bueller was kind of a good luck charm while filming Scott Pilgrim. It was the film that Wright and lead actor Michael Cera watched the night before shooting started. They created something known as the "Ferris wheel," by which Cera would gauge his onscreen performance based on whether he should act more like Ferris or Cameron. I think life should be lived by that same wheel. Sometimes you need to be sure of yourself and others you need to be a bit more sober than you normally are.