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These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT THE FUCK
Something went horribly wrong here and it’s carried over the the fans, who are blinded by shizer.
Why Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is Misunderstood
Your guide: Andre Dellamorte
Its Legacy: Defined the career of Mathew Broderick, who’s never been smugger. Landed Alan Ruck Young Guns 2. Mia Sara became jerk-off sock target practice for the boys who watched it. Made Jennifer Grey extra-conscious of her nose, which she later cut off to spite her face. Had Charlie Sheen playing a druggie… no comment. First gave Jeffery Jones a taste of grabbing young ass. Launched Edie McClurg and Ben Stein into the role they would reprise in various forms for the rest of their careers. Led to a number of people skipping the school in hopes of having a day nearly as awesome.
Why It’s Here: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Ferris Bueller is a sociopath. Ferris is a means to an end sort of guy, and if you recognize that, it’s a different film. But let’s give it some context.
By 1986, John Hughes was the voice of white teen America. For three years he directed a series of films that would become touchstones for their generation, with 1984’s Sixteen Candles, 1985’s The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, and 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (he scripted but handed over the directorial duties on Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful and Career Opportunities, his other teen comedies), virtually defining the the mid-80’s. Seriously, if you didn’t see these films at the time, one suspects you either weren’t a teen, or were trapped in a well, or something. Hughes was a productive artist (obviously), and was famous for dashing off his scripts after frenzied sessions (Ferris was supposedly written in a week). But the more teen films he made, the less he had to say, the more distance he got from what he was doing and it’s fair to say that the films get progressively less interesting with each successive entry.
It’s a hard tact denying the breezy charm of Bueller, from its catchy soundtrack to the likable performances across the board, the ace timing of Edie McClurg and Jeffery Jones, and Hughes’s sense of pacing, which is impeccable. As Jeremy recently opined the greatness of the ZAZ team, John Hughes seems no less informative about the meter of comedy. But the problem with the character of Ferris Bueller is that he’s something of a shit. That’s a modest sticking point for what amounts to a “fun ride,” but the film presents the fact that he’s an abusive manipulator who gets things over because he’s charming. The character is point-blank xenophobic. From Ferris’s handling of the guys at the parking lot, to his abuses of the asshole waiter at Che Quis’ to his exploitative (but beneficial) relationship with Cameron, there’s an undercurrent to his character that is unredeemed by his privleged background or his actions. As I’ve said before, this isn’t about someone pulling something over because it’s the only way he’ll get to experience it – Ferris has the money for the restaurant, he just doesn’t have a reservation. And part of the charm of films like this is that it’s about sticking it to the man. Where Ferris is not rebelling against anything. He’s just a really good liar. Ultimately these failings, like the smug business dealings in Secret of My Success are probably the trappings of its Reagan-era filmmaking. But it’s also likely that Hughes was so successful at this point that he only knew how to exploit class differences (ala Pretty in Pink) in the most egregiously overstated ways possible. But understanding class constructs are important, even if you’re going to ignore them (like in The Philadelphia Story), because it turns a character into someone clever and sympathetic versus a smug spoiled brat who defeats Rooney, a well-meaning bureaucrat (at least when it comes to Sloane’s fake-relative’s death) who’s simply doing his job. The film is the triumph of privilege.
Ultimately the success of Ferris Bueller the character is the thing I can’t hold against the film: Ferris presents his case, and asks the viewer to side with him, and he’s conning the audience just as he does everyone else. Like the story of the scorpion and the frog, Bueller will sting you, but would smile and tell you it’s only in his nature. The film then becomes about the cult of personality, and Bueller asks you to both forgive and allow him to do what he does without him ever returning the favor. Bueller wants to argue that engaging in victimless crimes is about stopping to smell the roses. But the film’s evidence against suggests that’s just an excuse to get what he wants; nothing in the film suggests that anything he says is trustworthy. On the recent special edition DVD of the film, Ben Stein said that when he met President George W. Bush, the first thing W. said to him was “Bueller… Bueller….” And I think if you look at the president – who has used his personality to get what he wants, regardless – you can tell he’s a big Ferris Bueller fan. And if Ferris Bueller were a real person, he’d probably have a job in the current administration.
A Moment of Piss: Isn’t funny how Rooney drives a Plymouth Reliant! Hah, what a poor.
These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: Tom and Jerry. Three O’Clock High. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Rushmore. Psycho.
Nick Nunziata Agrees: I find this movie borderline offensive and always have. Matthew Broderick’s work here has pretty much made it impossible for me to like him ever since, portraying this man of leisure as a smug, thoughtless, and conniving asshole whose selfishness almost costs everyone around him and NEVER GETS PENALIZED FOR IT. Does that mean his performance is that great? No, it just just means Fuck Ferris Bueller. Funnily, I love Ralph Fiennes to death even though I first got to know him as Amon Goeth. That’s how much Fuck Ferris Bueller.
Ferris Bueller is an antagonist, not the guy you want to center a teen comedy around unless it’s a Heathers type of black comedy. Ferris is a manipulative, cocky, and greedy jackass and I’m still a little pissed at John Hughes for making him happen. What’s with the fucking Twist and Shout sequence? What kind of bizarre fantasy film is this? Aside from Jeffrey Jones and Charlie Sheen’s legendary work here, this is an unholy offering.
Jeremy Smith Disagrees: Films are rarely “just” anything, so Dre and Nick are absolutely entitled to their belief that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a Reagan-era ode to the art of getting over. They make solid points, but context is a problem; Hollywood movies were, by and large, blissfully apolitical during the first six years of The Great Communicator’s reign, and they didn’t really regain their conscience until Platoon won Best Picture in 1987. A few satires slipped through the system (e.g. Trading Places and Risky Business), but they were misinterpreted as feel-good fables about succeeding with a shit-eating grin; Joel Goodsen was just a well-meaning capitalist with all the angles covered and moneyed access to fine pussy. Folks didn’t want to consider the spiritual cost of Goodsen’s ticket to Princeton because that would entail soul searching. Better to crack open another California Cooler and say, “What the fuck!”
Interpreting Ferris Bueller, on the other hand, was never much of a challenge. It was right there on the poster: “Leisure Rules”. Or, as Ferris says twice in the film, “Life goes by pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It goes no deeper than this. If his feckless attitude rankles, it’s because Ferris is a privileged kid with a smokin’ hot girlfriend and a propensity for browbeating his hypochondriac best buddy (who’s really rich), while his antagonist is an authoritarian principal who pulls down a shitty public school salary. It’d be one thing if Ed Rooney was a well-meaning educator, but he’s merely a petty, bungling bureaucrat – and he’s bitter because he cashed his first class ticket to nowhere a long time ago due to a (presumed) lack of ambition. He’s probably the kind of middle class sad sack who subscribes to the Robb Report.
I’m not surprised that George W. Bush loves Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but his admiration is most likely wish-fulfillment; short of tying one on, I doubt he ever evinced Ferris’s savoir-faire. So it’s appropriate that the closest he’s gotten to his filmic idol is the droning fool who drove the kid to inveterate truancy. As for the Reagan-ite subtext of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… what can I say? It really is just an escapist comedy. It’s about the freedom of youth, the exhilaration of checking out for six or seven hours (which feels like an eternity at eighteen). It’s about fleeting, meaningless joy. Calling Ferris Bueller’s Day Off an apologia for Young Republicans is like pegging Star Wars as a recruiting film for Al Qaeda. I might see your point, but I just don’t feel it.