I just found out it’s been 31 years to the day, since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was released. We watched it on Saturday, part of a renaissance of 80’s movies we’re going through since Middle Weasel took part in the staging of “The Breakfast Club” at her High School.
I missed Ferris the first time around, not catching it until the release on VHS, and even then it didn’t really connect with me at the time. Ferris is cool, he’s popular, and he’s skipping school. More than that, it’s easy to believe he’s bullying his friend Cameron. Cameron wants to stay home and be sick, but Ferris needs a ride and has no car. He cajoles Cameron into driving over, then gets him to impersonate Ferris’ girlfriend’s father so that she can be sprung from school too. Finally, Ferris persuades Cameron to let them take his father’s prized Ferrari on their trip to town.
There’s a relentlessness about Ferris in the opening section of the movie. He doesn’t accept Cameron’s refusals or explanations, and he seems to be steamrollering his friend to get what he wants. But it’s worth noting that Ferris doesn’t ditch Cameron to spend the day with his girlfriend, Sloane. He says on more than one occasion that this trip down town is for Cameron’s benefit, and one of the speeches delivered to the camera outlines Ferris’ regret and fears that he has to move on – next year he and Cameron will be at different colleges, and Sloane will be in her final year at High School. This trip is his gift to Cameron, as well as a treat for himself. Though he puts all three of them in jeopardy numerous times, his brazen attitude is also sufficient to rescue them from trouble.
The only times that Ferris can’t talk his way out of the problems he’s created are when Cameron realises the Ferrari will show the mileage they’ve put on it (and then accidentally destroys the car), and when he’s caught outside the house by Principal Rooney. The destruction of the car is actually Cameron’s final step from abused and neglected son to an adult in his own right – he’s finally done something that can’t be fixed or ignored, something that will hit his father where it hurts: the car he loves more than his son. Ferris has given him a day to remember and he has finally found a reason to stand up to his parents.
Caught by Rooney, Ferris is literally speechless. All the glib or snarky words that have saved him over and over are useless here, because he is clearly caught. Yet his sister chooses to help him, despite the anger she has shown towards him throughout the rest of the movie. Is it the talk she has with Charlie Sheen’s character at the police station? He tells her she’s angry with herself, not Ferris, and then when he’s about to get the very comeuppance she has been hoping for, she steps in to save him, even giving him the heads up that he has to be back in bed before their parents go to check on him.
The central message of the film, voiced by Ferris himself twice in the movie and quoted above, is that you should take the moments in life to stop and look around you. Despite the answering machines, shoulder pads and big hair, this movie and the message haven’t aged much at all.