The Sunday Magazine: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

As I am now firmly in my mid-50’s it is surprising what things make me feel my age. I find more and more often it is pop culture things which really remind me how much time I’ve been kicking around. The one that has me looking way back is the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Mainly because through the industrious detective work of baseball writer Larry Granillo and a Chicago Cubs baseball game shown during the movie he was able to pinpoint the infamous skip day as June 5, 1985. Thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, how can that be? I used to give my parents grief for watching movies thirty years old and now that I am their age I’m doing the same thing. Yeah I’m feeling my age. The movie which is making me feel my age; that seems ageless.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was the fourth movie directed by John Hughes. In his first four directorial efforts he was focused on the high school experience. Starting with Sixteen Candles, followed by The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science; he had delved into that world completely. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off he was now placing his characters at the end of high school facing the uncertain future. The lead characters decide to take a “day off” because in Ferris’ words “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Over the next hour and a half Ferris, his best friend Cameron and his girlfriend Sloan have every student’s version of a skip day ever imagined.

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(from l. to r.) Ferris (Matthew Broderick) Sloan (Mia Sara) Cameron (Alan Ruck)

The actor chosen to play Ferris is much of why this movie is still talked about so many years after its release. Matthew Broderick so inhabited the role I imagine many people would think Mr. Broderick was Ferris and want to participate in his charmed life. Mr. Hughes asked Ferris to break the fourth wall and throughout the movie he speaks directly to the audience. It is this one-sided conversation that provides the necessary insight into Ferris’ choices. This is about having fun but this is also the last time for him to get the attention of his two closest friends. This is Mr. Broderick’s breakout role on the movie screen. He was able to give some depth to what looks like something so shallow. That also has a lot to do with the words Mr. Hughes put into his mouth as he was also the writer for the film as well as the director.

Outside of the obvious 1980’s things like no cell phones Ferris Bueller’s Day Off still works today. I think it speaks to the timelessness of many of the themes explored in the film. I will admit that I have made sure to keep an eye on the life going on around me so that I don’t “miss it.” I believe it is that curiosity which has brought me to the place where I am in my life right now. Despite it being thirty years on there is still more than a little of Ferris in my heart and my head. While thirty years is a long time there has been a lot to see and I treasure all of it.

Mark Behnke

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