Ferris Bueller at the palace
I’m a big proponent of seeing films in the theatre – especially ones that you’ve only ever seen on television. There is a huge difference between seeing something on a 28 inch television screen and watching it on a huge film screen. Even with our higher resolution TVs these days, there is still something different about watching it on a giant theatre projected screen – and the communal experience of consuming the film with a theatre full of people. It’s discovering that people laugh in different places the new, and the feeling of sharing this movie with everyone else there . The Palace was fuller than usual, I think everybody had the same idea that I did – that is, to bring your kids to see this movie. With the PG.13 rating, it’s more accessible than a lot of Hughes’ work and a great primer for his style of film. It’s interesting the things that I can see on the screen that I’ve never noticed before, it’s little things like the print underneath the Simple Minds poster reading “Don’t you forget about me “, a throwback to the Breakfast Club. I’m also beginning to notice that apparently dress code for evil teachers in Illinois high school =is to wear plaid jackets. I’ve never realized that horrible blue suit that Mr. Rooney sports during this film has a plaid pattern on it – I always just thought it was an ugly powder blue.
It’s interesting, I’ve only ever seen this film on TV – I was unaware of how much was cut out of it . It’s not just a bad word here or there, they frequently trim the beginning and end of scenes by 5 to 10 seconds – sometimes more, on my VHS recording of this film (taped off of channel 43 around 1992) it is completely missing the drive into Chicago and a bunch of comments from characters back and forth. Very little of it makes any difference, though it may mess up the pacing a bit – but it’s still interesting to see, it’s kind of that same feeling you get from watching a director cut of a film that you’re really used to,
There is a theory running around the Internet, that Ferris doesn’t exist in this movie – but rather that the film is centered around Cameron and Ferris is a figment of his imagination, his ID if you will, everything that he wishes to be. It’s one of those ideas that sounds dynamite on paper, and I thought I’d walk into the film with this in mind, but it really falls apart if you actually watch the film. It doesn’t explain Sloan at all, unless she too is a figment of his imagination, she certainly isn’t acting as if she is Cameron’s buddy or his girlfriend. To this day, I still think this is Alan Rick’s finest hour – I’ve seen him in a number of other movies but never anything where he really gets to play comedy and chew the scenery like he does in this. In a lot of ways it really is Cameron’s movie.
The older I get, the more I notice that Ferris himself really is a terrible, terrible person. I genuinely wonder what happens to him after this film. You see, watching this I really believe Ferris has never ever faced failure. Oh sure, he complains about the fact that he is younger sister got a car before him (she is definitely younger because he is a senior and she’s not) but that’s not really his failure, and the fact that he feels so entitled to it is a very ugly aspect to his personality .He is brilliant, The enormous amount of planning that went into this day off along with the charisma that he shows in everything he does… he’s brilliant and charismatic – possibly a sociopath – but he’s never failed at anything, and I genuinely wonder what happens to him when he enters the real world where things don’t always go so smoothly. Perhaps I’m overanalysing, but that’s the thing about Hughes movies, they invite this sort of inspection, and I genuinely believe Ferris is not prepared for failure and when it inevitably comes he may find it crippling . Either that, or go all American Psycho on us. Jeannie is no better, she has the same degree of entitlement but is wallowing in bitterness because she lacks Ferris’s social graces and ability to just kind of slide through – her entitlement attitude is all over the place, not just in regards to her brother but in the way she will respond to other people in this film as well – the fact that she is a regular in the principal’s office and the secretary already knows she’s here to complain about somebody today… Yeah this is been going on for awhile. Really the blame could be placed on Ferris’s parents, obviously absentee parents (not getting home until six so Ferris and Jeannie were very likely latchkey kids who is affections are bought but not earned). This is a well off family, and to see that computer and that keyboard back in the 80s? These things are not cheap – I get the impression these kids have been given just about anything they ever asked for, and the end result is not necessarily going to be great. Again, I’m taking things too seriously – it’s a comedy, and comedy is exaggeration – that and tragedy plus time, and man, this film is full of both.
I don’t want to make it sound like I dislike this film – I don’t even want to make this sound like I dislike Ferris. I find the movie uproariously funny, and I have great affection for it, indeed I think a lot of my love of this film is rooted in the archetype. There’s a lot of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in this movie, just transplanted into 80s suburban Chicago. Ferris is absolutely the charismatic scamp that Tom Sawyer was with the kind of ingenuity and clever shenanigans that makes the adventures of Tom Sawyer my favourite book. It’s at the core of this character. In 2016, very little of what Ferris pulled would be workable. All of that business with the phones and the answering machines would be out of the question today with unless he was able to hack everybody’s cell phone from a distance – not feasible even within the context of the story. Then there is things like showing up on television during the baseball game or standing in the middle of the float – even if Mr. Rooney missed him on the TV, that stuff is forever now – it’s recorded – and you can’t tell me that he wouldn’t have shown up immediately on YouTube after doing those dances on the Float. Some people will look at these kind of problems and say this is why you couldn’t make Ferris Bueller in 2016, but I think you’re wrong because it’s not the specific gags he plays, it’s the fact that he’s a plan so far ahead and managed to implement them.
It’s that kind of fun that really makes me love this film. This is still a high recommend to anyone, and like I said the PG-13 rating makes it a lot easier to show your kids than say, The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink .
The John Hughes retrospective by the way ends this weekend, and I’ll be heading out to the Palace Friday night to catch Sixteen candles – I’ve got a few friends coming this time and I’d love it if you could join me as well!