Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

For the first time in far too long, my good friend Michael paid a visit to my house to embark on an adventure we'd planned a couple of weeks in advance: a Dark Knight marathon to celebrate the start of the half term holidays. The idea was infallible. We'd start at 7 or 8pm and watch Christopher Nolan's three Batman films back-to-back into the early hours of the morning.

But clearly, as you can see from the title of this post, such a thing was not to happen. The wonder of television (teacher, mother, secret lover) brought on wave after wave of watchable programmes, as Pointless became The Simpsons, The Simpsons became Britain's Brightest, and Britain's Brightest became - forgive me, it wasn't deliberate - Take Me Out. By the time these had finished, it was after ten, and although we were celebrating the holidays, neither of us was up for staying awake until about four. And so, I showed him the list of films I had stored on my Sky+ box, and from a list including Full Metal Jacket, The Departed and new addition The Shining, we went for John Hughes' 1980s teen comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Only about ten minutes into the film, Michael turned and muttered to me, 'This is a great movie.' It is a great movie. The concept could not be simpler. A teenager called Ferris Bueller, played by the brilliant Matthew Broderick, bunks off school for a day trip into Chicago. Recounting the storyline to another friend in a chip shop the week after, I realised how odd it must seem to someone who hasn't seen it, that an entire film could result from that plotline, but there it is.

As the film progresses, however, several different stories branch away from the original: Ferris, his girlfriend and his best friend muck about in Chicago for a day; Ferris' principal searches for him so he can prove truancy; the school rallies around the Ferris they believe to be dying of some unspecified disease ('I need a new kidney'); and Ferris' sister becoming increasingly annoyed with her brother's bluff. Hughes plays around with each of these trails, referencing some in others and generally just having fun with it. It risks becoming complicated, but Hughes carries it off easily whilst making sure the film never talks down to its audience.

The cast are flawless, too. Broderick has already become an icon of cool before the film finishes. It takes skill to play a character like Ferris Bueller without making him look pretentious, but Broderick's Bueller is laid-back and confident enough to pull it off cleanly. Alan Ruck's comic style as Ferris' best friend Cameron is still very impressive, with an acting ability to match. Mia Sara is not to be underestimated as Sloane, Bueller's girlfriend, and Jeffrey Jones is marvellous as Ed Rooney, the suspicious and unfortunate principal.

John Hughes was the undisputed emperor of the 1980s teen comedy, a category that has somehow morphed into its own genre. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of the epitomes of this type of film, as it appeals to everyone who has ever been to school and dreamt of an unauthorised absence. It is intelligent, chirpy and iconic, with a flawless cast to play it out. This, White Chicks, is what is known as 'comedy'.

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