I don’t often write guest blogs (I have enough trouble keeping up with my own website) but when the lovely Nicole decided to massage my ego with flattering emails it provided some good motivation to get my lazy fingers typing again. She’s asked me to write about one of my “Movies to See” that hasn’t yet been given a dedicated post on my own site, and seeing as we’re all heading back to school this month, I figured that there was really only one film I could write about.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off can be a bit of a marmite film. It has a huge cult following, but there are also those grumpy few who just don’t get it. I very much do get it. Ferris, in a similar way to Grease, captures everything about the school years you never had. We all wish we’d been as fearless as Ferris, able to talk our way out of any situation, never getting caught, indiscriminately popular and able to turn our hand to anything. Of course, the reality is that if we’re honest, we’re all far more like Cameron, keeping our heads down and just trying to get by.
That’s why Ferris works. He takes Cameron (and by association all of us) out of his comfort zone and shows him that there’s a big wide world out there if you just get out of bed and go and find it. Now, we shouldn’t all be skipping school and pretending to have life threatening diseases, but there’s no point in letting life pass you by either. There are some great quotes in the movie, and one of my favourites is: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” which I think sums the movie up pretty succinctly. Although the whole Carpe diem message is hardly new, it’s a strong backbone that provides support to what could otherwise be a pretty fluffy movie.
For me, Cameron makes the movie. We’re not worried about Ferris. He’s obviously going to be fine; coasting through life as one of those insanely irritating people who never really have to try but somehow manages to fall on his feet. Cameron on the other hand is unsure. He might not be the eponymous hero, but he’s the character who goes through the major development and whom in my opinion, the film is really about. As I’ve mentioned, he’s far more relatable than Ferris, and so we’re immediately captured by this character who is about to go off in to the big wide world, but is too scared to actually take that step.
The light heart of the movie kind of drops out for the final infamous car scene, leaving us a sense of dread of what will happen to Cameron after the credits roll, but at the same time we get the feeling that the inevitable confrontation with his father will be the beginning of Cameron finally taking control of his life. It’s not really the ending you expect from the film, but it is a healthy dose of reality at just the right time.
Ferris is a coming of age movie. Again, not exactly original, but it captures that awkward moment at the end of school before university (or college for our Yankee cousins) where everyone is promising to be friends forever but there’s a little part of you that wonders if that’s true. There’s a really nice moment (I think by the pool, but correct me if I’m wrong) where Ferris is mulling over that precise idea, with a great honesty that cuts through any possibly candy coating. It’s moments like that which I think make Ferris such a good movie and so different from others of its kind, backed up by the great “to-camera” pieces by a wiser than his years Ferris: “Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.”
While there are times when the plot is pretty unbelievable (pretty much everything the Principal does is far fetched) it’s balanced with nuggets of realism that come in at just the right intervals to strike a chord with the audience. It leaves the film with a feeling of nostalgia, as if it’s being told years later and certain facts have been embellished. You can almost imagine a prologue/epilogue scenario with a grown up Cameron telling the story.
All these clever plot points and punchy quotable lines would be no good without decent performances, and luckily Ferris has them. Matthew Broderick has probably never done anything as good again, but he is perfect as Ferris, making a character who could come across as smug warm and likeable. Alan Ruck is also wonderfully understated as Cameron, capturing “awkward teenager” all the more impressively when you bear in mind that he was 30 at the time. Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones give more larger than life performances, mainly sidelined as supporting characters to add some depth to the plot, but Garner’s frustrated sibling is all too familiar to any of us who have ever known a “Ferris” and the cameo moment with actor-turned-prophet Charlie Sheen gives a little bit more dimension as well as being one of my favourite scenes.
I could talk about why Ferris works for ages (you can probably tell) but as this isn’t my blog I’ll keep my superlatives to a minimum. Ferris Bueller captures that invincible end of school feeling when you know you have your whole life ahead of you and then gives you that little nudge to go out there and get it.
Katie Ferin is a medical students and blogger (quite the combo!). She owns more DVDs than any one person can watch in a lifetime and can be found discussing the ones that really matters on her blog, storiesthatreallymattered.wordpress.com.