Sunday, 7 February 2010

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era - Part Six: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is probably the most well-remembered film in John Hughes' cycle of brat pack movies, and with good reason. It is by far the most anarchic and the most fun, and while it doesn't have the emotional impact of The Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink, but it does have a ton more laughs than both, and in the three leads it has an unbeatable trio. Matthew Broderick played the titular character, while Mia Sara played Sloane Peterson and Alan Ruck as Cameron Fry (It still amuses me that he ended up playing a starship captain in Star Trek: Generations- I love the idea that following him crashing a car backwards through a window, Cameron ended up flying the Enterprise...heh).

The film is pretty much summed up by the title- Ferris Bueller takes a day off from school, and the movie follows his adventures on that infamous day. Along the way he picks up his girlfriend Sloane and drags his sick friend Cameron out of his bed to join in with his ruse. It's fun, brash and delightfully mischievous, and John Hughes' direction is as sharp as his script this time out.

There are memorable set pieces galore, along with countless lines that are very quotable ("Bueller..... Bueller... Bueller..." for example), yet it doesn't feel like a series of sketches, which the format could have ended up being. Ferris is quite happy to break the fourth wall and chat to the audience, which instead of taking you out of the action, actually drags you further into it and make you feel part of proceedings while you're watching it.

It's that pleasing nod-and-wink attitude that made Ferris such an icon to so many people, and something that keeps the film feeling fresh to this day. It may actually be that tendency for him to talk to camera that keeps the film in one piece, but it could also just be the fact that the whole thing was put together with such obvious delight and glee that you can't help but enjoy it. There are some moments that really hit home, such as the repeated line of "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it," which rings true to this day.

The film, for all of its chaos and humour, does have the atmosphere of a coming of age story, and it does capture some of the uncertainty of the latter teenage years and trying to figure out what the hell you;re supposed to do when you get out of education. Some of us still don't know, really. It's that feeling of an uncertain future and trying to hang on to one's youth that really keeps you on the side of Ferris, Sloane and Cameron, despite their disregard for any form of rules. They're very likeable characters indeed, which helps you stay with them through the whole thing.

There are some true laugh-out-load moments throughout the film's duration, a personal favourite being the hilarious phone conversation between Cameron (posing as Sloane's dad) and school principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). Ed Rooney is a delightfully hateful character, who provides a huge amount of comic relief whenever he's onscreen. His eventual comeuppance is a marvel to behold, helping to perfectly round off a film that is awash with brilliant moments.

I mean, come on, it's hard not to love any film that has an enormous musical number in the middle of it where the hero of the film takes over a parade float and has thousands of people dancing and singing to 'Twist and Shout' by the Beatles. That scene alone is one of the greatest, most life-affirming moments in film from the whole of the 80s, which does kind of sum up Ferris Burller's Day Off itself. Save Ferris indeed.

1 comment:

Tony Kennick said...

I like it more than The Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink because it is less emotional than they are.