Premièred by Paramount Pictures Ferris Bueller's day Off Written by John Hughes
And here we have the pride of the Hughes collection – Ferris Bueller’s day Off. Someone (well, Hughes) remembered that motion pictures are a visual art, and as such, uses every aspect of the concept to its fully advantageous potential. Written by Hughes after taking inspiration from a day in Chicago, Ferris Bueller’s day Off utilises “the ol’ bait-and-switch” to transform his audience inside, and the result is a powerfully-rewarding pathos that is honestly the closest I’ve ever come to transcending the concept of time.
Bueller’s life philosophy is to not let the world pass you by and live in the moment, themes of many other works. But Hughes is, I am now convinced, a film-maker unlike any other. And if he wants his audience to understand the importance of time, then dammit, he’s going to make them feel it happening within themselves.
The narrative takes-place across one day, from morning till early dawn. And in that time, Bueller’s lived an entire life. In the process, he’s transformed his friend Cameron Frye into a person who actually gives a damn about the way the world’s treating him. He refuses to settle for less. So it speaks a lot about Hughes as a storyteller that the most rewarding character in Ferris Bueller’s day Off isn’t Ferris Bueller. He’s a more interesting person, but not the most interesting character. What Hughes does is to use him to hook the audience into a story about someone else, who that person transforms. Bueller’s only the protagonist because he happens to be.
Frye’s character development is the story of what Ferris Bueller’s day Off is really about. Simply telling a story about someone bunking-off school is too vague a subject on its own, so something has to be happening inside of it. The day off is just the context. Bueller, a character, is just a framing-device. Eyes through-which to experience the story. Frye’s transformation is only rewarding because we’re not that character. It’s because we’re seeing it happen to someone else that it works, if only because it’s what Bueller set out to do – skipping wasn’t his desire. He wanted to share the gift of life with someone whose own life wasn’t giving him the satisfaction he deserved.
Which is not to say that Ferris Bueller’s day Off doesn’t work on its own, because it does. The humour is on-point, and Matthew Broderick was the kind of perfect casting that only comes-along once in a generation. Any other actor would either overplay or underplay breaking the fourth wall, but very much like Michael J. Fox, Broderick has the comedic sensibilities to get it just right. And the other actors are all great as well, even down to the boring lecturers who are seen fleetingly. It takes a lot to be a boring character but a good actor. The fact that they all come together so coherently is testament to Hughes as a director. He will be missed.
If it sounds like I’m suggesting for a moment that those things are a weak element of the film, I’m not. Ferris Bueller’s day Off‘s best aspect is also its worst: the final act overshadows everything that came before, which was already a nine for me. It features teenagers that are genuinely intelligence, and the way Chicago is presented as a microcosmic Universe is the beginning of its transformation from respectable teen comedy-drama to a transcendence of our current situation. Frye staring into the painting in the gallery on its own is a powerful scene, combining imagery and music and editing to create a desired feeling. But it’s when that is combined with the final scene, in-which Bueller comes to a landing in his garden, cranked into slow-motion that the greater picture has become tangible. That one day, lived like the last, has become a small moment that’s so important to the eponymous protagonist. And that itself leads to a bookend that may suggest none of it even happened. Was it all in his head? I like to disagree with the popular fan theory that it is. Not only would that invalidate the point of it all, but Hughes isn’t that cynical.
Ferris Bueller’s day Off has a juvenile premise, which is transformed into a rousing parable. Fleeting in context, but epic in content, the scale is higher than I’ve ever seen in another film. Personally, spiritually, creatively… John Hughes understands exactly what he wants to do, and he does it as good as always: floating on a wing and a prayer, with some comedy thrown in for good measure.
I’m so grateful that this film exists. It reminds us that everything will pass.