‘Ferris Buller’s Day Off’ puts a youthful spin on ‘carpe diem’

By Marilyn MacLaren, Staff Writer

As the year dwindles to a close, more and more students may be feeling the urge to ditch their classes and enjoy their last days left on campus before finals. Struggling between hours of studying and taking advantage of the warm weather and fun activities to mark the end of the year can be a difficult balancing act for any student. A film that captures this feeling, from the daunting uncertainty of what the academic future holds to the unpredictable spontaneity of youth, is none other than the 1980s classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).

Directed by John Hughes, the film is a teen comedy that features Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, a zany high school senior determined to take advantage of the perfect day and explore the city through hilarious hijinks and heart-to-heart moments. Along with his best friend Cameron Frye, played by Alan Ruck, and his girlfriend Sloane, played by Mia Sara, the three learn to enjoy the little pleasures of life and ultimately live in the moment.

The film focuses on the trio exploring the sights and sounds of Chicago, enjoying popular tourist attractions such as the Art Institute, Wrigley Field and the Willis Tower Skydeck. The students bond while sharing their worries about the future after high school and opening up about their insecurities, all while Dean Ed Rooney, played by Jeffrey Jones, serves as the fumbling antagonist determined to expose Bueller.

The cat-and-mouse mind games between Bueller and Rooney are entertaining to watch and reveal the power struggles between the characters, from the popularity and influence Bueller has from the support of the student body over his “illness” to the lack of authority Rooney is desperate to gain back by busting Bueller. 

Throughout the film, Broderick brings the character of Ferris Bueller alive as he comedically refers to the camera in multiple fourth wall breaks, addressing the audience that he seemingly performs his antics for in his efforts to get out of school. The audience is pulled into his perspective, joining the three students for a ride as they take risks and show their vulnerability to one another. 

Cameron is a particularly interesting “sidekick” to Ferris who begrudgingly goes along with his elaborate plans to fool the dean and his parents. Glimpses of his home life, especially his relationship with his father, reveal underlying emotional problems for Cameron that are finally addressed near the film’s end. 

After Cameron realizes that the miles on his father’s beloved car cannot be reversed after the students’ day out on the town, he violently breaks down, destroys the car and reveals his true resentment towards his father, tired of his fear of disappointing him. 

Although Bueller’s charm carries the comedy of the film, Cameron’s character growth is highlighted in the performance given by Ruck. Cameron develops from a timid, indecisive lackey of Bueller taken for granted to a defiant, assertive individual ready to face his father and his future with the support of his friends.

Hughes achieves creating a balance between the comedic and emotional aspects of the film, provided by Bueller’s charisma and inside jokes with the audience as well as the personal growth shown by each character as they learn how to address their feelings and face the day, no matter whatever unexpected adventures it holds.


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