John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the classic examples of pure escapism within the art of cinema. It isn’t escapism in the sense of Maverick’s Tree of Life but more in the sense of the giddy excitement one feels when a plan falls into place or when one has a prolonged daydream. It manages to make you laugh and warm the cockles of your heart to an almost goo like substance.
The film’s title is essentially the entire plot. Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a young, popular, harum-scarum figure of teenage idolisation within his High School. One random day he decides to fake an illness and take a leisurely day off from the education system. However, the highly-strung, jittery Dean of Students Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) will do anything in his power to expose Bueller as the truant he is.
Ferris Bueller as a film never strays too far out of reality; it always lays its allegiances just in the realms of believability, which is why it’s so perfect. You always feel like this could, should and probably has happened somewhere at sometime. It’s ambiguous in its day, it’s just a perfect day and it’s a celluloid example of just seizing the day and making it yours.
But the film wouldn’t work if it were just pure ecstatic glee and rebellious misadventures. The film unwaveringly roots itself not only in the land of simple teenage pleasantries but also in the land of teenage angst and fear. Bueller’s close friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) is a pessimistic, cynical underdog and the contrast between him and Ferris not only provides the film with some of its most memorable set pieces (caps off to the most pointlessly satisfying musical number ever) but with the biggest message. Ruck’s performance is hauntingly accurate and safeguards the film from floating off into the land of fantasy. Many could and have said that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t just an impeccable coming of age comedy, but the most realised attempt to portray the ecstasy of the teenage dream. In its purest essence Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the perfect teenage movie; it’s funny, charming, edgy and portrays authoritarian figures as logger-headed buffoons without falling too deep into the pit of tasteless caricatures and even 25 years after its original theatrical release Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is still as relevant and cult as it was a generation ago.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Jay Crosbie (July ’11)
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