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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” says Ferris Bueller.

Matthew Broderick does a lot of fourth-wall breaking (talking to the audience while in character) as lovable rogue Ferris Bueller in John Hughes’ most popular directorial effort (Broderick previously played a fourth-wall breaking character the year before in Richard Donner’s medieval classic Ladyhawke). Hughes reportedly wrote the film in less than a week due to a looming Writers Guild strike and shot what was essentially his first draft of the screenplay (he ended up cutting roughly an hour from the film).  I saw Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the big screen at the AMC theater on 34th St. in New York City 11 years ago in an old but decent 35mm film print, and it was quite an enjoyable experience.  This review of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my entry in the Back-To-School Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie.

1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows a popular high school senior who fakes a sick day and spends an eventful day in Chicago with his girlfriend and his depressed best friend.  Hughes brought together a fine ensemble that included Broderick (as Ferris Bueller), Alan Ruck (as Cameron Frye), Mia Sara (Sloane Peterson), Jennifer Grey (as Jeannie Bueller), Jeffrey Jones (as Edward Rooney), Lyman Ward (as Tom Bueller), Cindy Pickett (as Katie Bueller), Edie McClurg (as Grace), Ben Stein (as the Economics teacher), Charlie Sheen (as Garth Volbeck), Kristy Swanson (as Simone Adamley), Richard Edson (as the Garage Attendant), and Larry Flash Jenkins (as the Attendant Co-Pilot).  Broderick gives a phenomenal performance as the popular high school senior who seems capable of doing anything.  He brings charm and loyalty to a character who not only tries to enjoy life but is also willing to do whatever it takes to help his depressed best friend.  Ruck gives an underrated performance as Bueller’s depressed best friend who’s struggling with family issues (Broderick and Ruck play off each other well and make their friendship believable).  Jones is the perfect foil to Broderick’s Bueller as the high school principal who sees through Bueller’s antics.  Sara provides grace as Bueller’s girlfriend, and Grey is memorable as Bueller’s sister, who constantly struggles with her brother’s popularity and ability to get away with practically anything.

The screenplay by Hughes presents fascinating dual character journeys over the course of a single day (Ferris being the main focal point and Cameron being the contrast as their journeys intertwine).  Tak Fujimoto’s gorgeous cinematography makes Chicago look great, and John W. Corso’s production design makes great use of actual Chicago locations and landmarks.  Paul Hirsch’s editing moves the film along at a great pace, covering a lot of action and enhancing a cathartic, thrilling finale.  Hughes’ use of songs is quite effective, blending very well with Ira Newborn’s sparse score.  Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a life-affirming dramedy filled with engaging performances (especially from Broderick, Ruck, and Jones) that has held up well over the last 30 years, has become a modern comedy classic, and is a wonderful love letter from Hughes to the city of Chicago.

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One response to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

  1. Hear hear! This film absolutely is a love letter to the city of Chicago. And Ferris Bueller is an utterly charming character, which is mostly due to Matthew Broderick, in my opinion.

    Thanks for the background info re: john Hughes and the looming Writers’ Strike. I’m going to keep that in mind the next time I watch this film.

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