'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' | Quarantine Film Club (Week 5)
Hello! I hope you all enjoyed your week-long break because it's time to get back into the swing of things; I'm very excited to watch some nice films with you all! Last week marked our fourth spin of the wheel, and John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) won Week 5's Facebook poll.* While I'm familiar with some of Hughes' work, I hadn't actually seen this film before (blasphemy, I know) - I'm glad to finally get around to it.
The film follows Ferris, a high school senior who - after convincing his parents he's too sick for academia - spends a school day causing chaos amidst central Chicago. He's joined by his girlfriend Sloane and his best friend Cam, the latter of whom is offered the film's most notable character arc. Cam's father, neglectful and abusive, has a strained relationship with his son and seems to offer his car more affection than his family. Though afraid of the repercussions, Ferris' encouragement persuades Cam to take his father's car out on their adventure; Cam eventually smashes its bonnet in a jealous rage and claims he'll begin to stand up for himself against his Dad.
Ferris' adventure is juxtaposed against his sister's average day. Undervalued by her parents and unnoticed in the school corridors, Jeannie Bueller's brewing jealousy of her brother establishes the character as an antagonist. In the film's final stretch, however, Jeannie 'learns to relax'; the character is arrested and, in the police station, meets a drug dealer. The dealer spews some violent sexism her way and, for some reason, Jeannie falls in love - I suppose the script's a product of its time...
An otherwise cartoonish film (in both its high stakes and absent consequences), it's unsurprising that Cam's comparatively angsty arc has inspired a lot of conversation. One school of thought, known by fans as the 'Fight Club' theory, suggests that Ferris might not even be real at all. Ferris would instead be understood as Cam's imaginary friend, daring him to be more adventurous and reckless, encouraging him to make the most of his youth and to realize his own worth. It's a nice idea, but I'm not sure I buy it. Ferris' family are too important to the film's overall narrative, for starters. Still, given that we're in the era of the remake I wouldn't be too upset if a version of Ferris was green-lit with a script that directly explored this 'Fight Club' theory - a la Drop Dead Fred (1991).
It is true, though, that Ferris' flair for getting in and out of mischief makes the character a little implausible. While watching the film I was notably surprised that it hadn't been adapted into a children's Beano-like cartoon. All the ingredients are there - the three troublesome protagonists, the villainous headteacher, and the potential running gag for every episode to start with a new excuse to bunk off school. As it turns out, upon further research, the series was adapted for television. Ferris Bueller debuted in 1990 on NBC, starring a young Jennifer Aniston almost five years before her rise to fame in Friends. Despite the success of Hughes' film, the attempt to establish a televised adaptation failed and the show was never renewed for a second series.
For Week 6 of our Quarantine Film Club we'll be watching the basketball classic, Space Jam (1996). Be sure to check out our Facebook Group for more information about how you can join in.
Written by James Green
*While this is technically our fourth week of scheduled QFC programming, I'm considering this as Week 5. That's mainly for the selfish reason that, thanks to this numbering system, I can keep better track of how long we've been in lock-down.