It’s a quiet Saturday night, and I’ve just finished watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. (For those who haven’t had the, erm, pleasure, it’s a John Hughes teen cult film from 1986 or so. Hughes also did “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club”, both of which I’ve seen, so I was slightly curious.)
Frankly, it was a bizarre experience. I know that teen tastes are more changeable than most with the passage of time, but “Ferris” just left me completely nonplussed. It isn’t tragic or funny. There’s precious little plot (boy, best friend and girlfriend take the day off school and muck about, teacher tries to catch them but fails, and that’s literally it) and the characterization is non-existent (Ferris is lucky - which is a circumstance, not a character trait - his friend is uptight, and his sister’s angry at his good fortune, and that’s literally it). The acting is particularly abysmal - especially from Mia Sara, who plays Ferris’s girlfriend. She delivers her lines deadpan and stares vaguely into the middle distance throughout - she could be contemplating love, homework, the possibility of interplanetary space travel or haemmorhoids for all we know.
Weirdest of all is the complete lack of any moral compass or message - Ferris, who has rich parents and friends, stands for absolutely nothing apart from “taking it easy”; he’s not even rebelling against anything. All he does is skip school, go to a museum, have lunch in a fancy restaurant, lounge around in a hot tub and sing a couple of karaoke numbers at a parade, then get back in time for tea. He doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs, and he fully intends to graduate and go to college. His actions have no consequences (and we’re not shown what becomes of his hapless friend who has trashed his dad’s priceless Ferrari) - but more importantly, they don’t seem to have any purpose either; nothing is achieved, none of the characters learn anything. And if the message is supposed to be “par-taaay”, then frankly I think I’d have more fun at a meeting of the Folkestone and District Table-Tennis Committee than Ferris manages on his “Day Off”.
The film was reasonably successful (Stateside at least), and John Hughes retains some cachet as a “cult” director, albeit very much of his time; I’m interested to know what our American correspondents made of it. Am I missing something deep, or is it just completely vapid?
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