Senior spring is in full swing as seniors are anxious to finish out high school and move on to new adventures. Especially in a year characterized by staying at home, teens crave the perfect senior ditch day more than ever, and that’s exactly what John Hughes’ 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off delivers.
The film will be screened at the May 8th Saturday night Food Truck Celebration & Senior Movie Night event.
The film follows Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) as he feigns being deathly ill to secure a day off of high school. But his plans are not to simply relax and blow off schoolwork. No, Ferris Bueller makes his senior ditch day an unforgettable one by roping in his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to escape from the suburbs into Chicago where adventure ensues as they find their way into the Art Institute, Wrigley Field, a parade, and much more. All the while, Bueller’s principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) becomes obsessed with proving Ferris is cutting class and should be forced to repeat his senior year.
The movie works with several moving parts and part of what makes it so fun to watch is its episodic nature. Audiences jump from Ferris’s house to the principal’s office to Cameron’s house, then all the way to Chicago and back again. Even though the film relies on many cuts to get to so many settings, the pace of the story does not become too rushed. Audiences sense a result of the swift buildup of the movie’s first chapter is approaching as Ferris orchestrates his morning but still get to enjoy many laughs along the way before checking in on another character in another place.
Perhaps the most fitting word for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is “iconic.” Besides the scenes with famous Chicago sites contributing to the story, the film also creates original moments that are familiar across pop culture. It’s hard to pinpoint just one line — if we’re not counting the infamous “Bueller? Bueller?” roll call scene that many teachers turned into their favorite way to tease a quiet class — because as a whole it’s the film’s stylistic choices and nostalgia factor that make it so memorable. Ferris begins the movie by breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to audiences and continues to do so periodically through the final scene, so that automatically there is a relationship established between the viewers and protagonist. Even though Ferris is a textbook example of how to be a poor student, choices like these highlighting his humor make him likeable. The film also makes every effort to show off its then-current ‘80s fashion, complete with perms, high-waisted jeans, and bright patterns to add an extra pop of character to an already flashy movie.
Yet this film could not be so iconic without the actors who truly bring their characters to life. Matthew Broderick emulates a carefree teenage spirit through Ferris Bueller with just the right mix of silly antics, a dash of diabolical manipulation, and a naive but quite common notion that things will simply work out in the end. Broderick delivers every line with energy, even the ones where Ferris is pretending to have no energy at all while “sick in bed.” Broderick even plays Ferris so well that his character can become annoying to audiences, because really, why does he get away with everything? But despite having a flawed character, Broderick expertly adds in just the right amount of wit and charm to his performance to make viewers cheer for Ferris again and again.
Broderick’s co-star with an equal if not more exceptional performance is Alan Ruck, who portrays Cameron. Cameron’s character is a bit more complex than Ferris, as he is in a constant internal struggle between following the rules and allowing himself to enjoy life — a concept Ferris challenges again and again by convincing Cameron to steal his father’s rare Ferrari for their adventurous day.
But the audience could never sympathize so much with Cameron without Ruck’s fantastic portrayal of his episodes of comedic anxiety. Ruck uses his eyes to tell us exactly how Cameron is feeling and matches that energy with exasperated movements. He will peel back this defensive layer in other moments to show a more vulnerable, sensitive side of Cameron, someone who is, like many teenagers, unsure of how to cope with the future and using dark humor to push forward.
Last but not least of the trio is Mia Sara playing Sloane. Sara portrays Sloane’s lighthearted spirit along with the character’s love for Ferris effortlessly. However, audiences may find themselves feeling as if she doesn’t get as much of the spotlight as her male counterparts. And then audiences will remember that oh, right, this is an ‘80s movie. True to the nature of this era of film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off doesn’t give as much screen time or development to female characters, or pay much attention to the idea of diversity either. It’s not exactly unexpected considering the idea of telling people’s stories from all different backgrounds and identities was not as celebrated in film back then as it is today, but it may still be disappointing to some.
Still, that’s not to say the film lacks depth by any means. Despite the shenanigans of Ferris and his accomplices and the expectations viewers may have to see something that’s purely adolescent recklessness, the movie still touches on subjects very real to teenagers entering adulthood. The scenes may be brief but they are meaningful all the same: the posse wanders through the Chicago Art Institute along with a group of children as they ponder great works of art and relish in the idea of being younger again. The latter is a wordless scene with much slower, more reflective music than in the rest of the movie. It completely changes the pace and tone of the film by inviting audience members to reflect along with the characters.
The Chicago setting also adds another layer to the film. It is bold yet enchanting, and John Hughes makes sure that audiences know that by taking time to include beautiful shots of the architecture and landscape of the city as Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane enter it. Especially considering how many of us haven’t been able to travel in light of the pandemic, the cityscapes provide a beacon of hope to audiences who have long awaited the ability to explore such exciting places once again. Watching Ferris and his friends wander through restaurants and baseball stadiums and skyscrapers reminds us of the time before everything was by-appointment-only. Even though the film itself never could have known this, it predicts the future that we ourselves will soon wander around our favorite places once again without so much anxiety.
All of this comes together to bring us Ferris Bueller and his incredible day off. One that we couldn’t pull off if we tried, but we’d still like to believe we would. But the point of the film is not just to laugh while watching a teenager miraculously get away with skipping school, but to ponder how we can make our own days more exciting and if we should be bound to our intense, draining routines.
So carve out some time in the business of the end of the year to enjoy a movie that is all about reveling in life’s serendipitous opportunities. Because there’s one thing we know for sure: life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is rated PG-13.
Tickets for the outdoor screening on Saturday evening are $15 per person and can be purchased through 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 6th. Gates will open May 8th at 7 p.m.
Elizabeth Dyer is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl