Updated: September 14, 2020 8:53:33 am
A kid takes a day off from school to do what he really wants.’ This was basically American filmmaker John Hughes’ one-line pitch to the bosses at Paramount Pictures. And guess what, it worked! It worked so well that even after over three decades of the film’s release (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off released in 1986), we are still talking about it. So what holds? Almost everything, if you are not too keen to pick the whole story apart. I just didn’t appreciate the way Ferris’ friend Cameron was handled for most of the film. But more on that later.
Matthew Broderick plays the charming, street-smart 17-18 year-old Ferris who is on the precipice of adulthood and doesn’t want to waste his time thinking about the future or lamenting the lost past. All Ferris wants to do is live. So he decides to take a day off from school and pretends that he is very sick. After he is left alone at home, he borrows a Ferrari and takes his best friend and girlfriend for the ride of their lives. However, the dean of the school is tired of our hero’s escapades and vows to nab him in time. Does he succeed? That is not so much the point of the movie. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a light film. It doesn’t have any secret message, except perhaps one — to live and experience each day to its highest potential. In fact, Ferris is even heard saying at one point in the movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And if that is espoused in the most entertaining manner possible, it doesn’t matter that the movie at large doesn’t deal with any serious or topical issues. ‘Do what you do well’ is apparently something both Hughes and his creation (Ferris) believed in.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is not plot-driven. It is its witty, vibrant charm that casts a spell. It is the moments, the dialogues and the characters that stay with you long after the film is over. They seem wholesome and lovable despite their idiosyncrasies. Also, Ferris’ constant fourth-wall breaking makes you feel like you are a part of his circle, like somehow you were in on the joke. It is this sense of relatability and clever use of the storytelling device that works wonders for the movie. However, the simple narrative and its simpler charms would have had no effect had it not been for Matthew Broderick’s winsome portrayal of Ferris. Effortlessly charismatic, Matthew not only makes you sit up and pay attention to Ferris’ antics, but also makes you root for him. Which basically means you are rooting for a teenager to get away with his fancies. Not a great idea, but within a movie like this, it makes perfect sense.
While there is little to critique about the movie and its execution, there were some problematic parts, especially the ones featuring Alan Ruck’s Cameron. From the way Cameron behaved throughout the course of the film, it seemed that he was under stress and was undergoing some form of mental illness. Despite being a rich boy belonging to an affluent family and having a best friend and confidante, Cameron never seemed happy. It was hinted that his parents had a troubled relationship and he was neglected at home. On most days, Cameron found it difficult to get out of bed, he was shown as indecisive and anxious, and seemingly suffered panic attacks. However, these issues were not addressed by the makers at all. In fact, Ferris, who is supposed to be Cameron’s closest friend, thinks that his friend is super-sensitive and overreacts to things needlessly. But then again, this was a different time. No one cared about mental health in the 80s; few do even now. The only relief is Cameron isn’t reduced to being butt of jokes because of his condition.
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You can stream Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Netflix.
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