Ferris Bueller's Day Off

If you are lucky enough not to have to play by the rules, why should you? This film is a diatribe against the politics of envy – if you feel resentment at other people’s good fortune then the problem is your own. Those that become obsessed by it (like the hapless Ed Rooney) end up ruined, whereas Bueller’s sister manages to let go, and bag herself a smooch with Charlie Sheen in the process.

Bueller is wired for success despite his slacker attitude. Preternaturally self-confident, a wizard with technology, and from a comfortably middle-class background, he’ll no doubt end up making and losing millions in the 90s dot com bubble. The film notes the inadequacies of high school education (a mixture of dull rote-learning and horrific army-style exercise) and suggests that the ingenuity and creativity inherent in spinning your way through a day off is a better use of your time. Bueller’s father works in advertising and it looks like Bueller’s talent for bullshitting is inherited. A large detached house in the suburbs and a brood of incorrigible kids beckons.

Matthew Broderick does his best to make this shyster as lovable as possible. Perhaps having some experience of that European socialism Bueller dismisses so breezily I am somewhat immune to his charms, and find the film’s celebration of individualistic free-riding a bit distasteful. Part of the fantasy of this film is that its YOLO attitude never has negative consequences, when in fact civilisation is built on the ability to adhere to rules even if they don’t benefit you and to sacrifice today’s pleasures for future rewards. Bueller’s day off is a holiday from the world. It’s a break to enjoy the sights before the speed of life takes over again.

It’s telling that Hughes’s attempts to imbue the character with some sort of fellow-feeling ring false. Bueller volunteering to take the rap for his friend trashing his father’s car is supposed to be a heartfelt moment, but could just as well be a double bluff playing on Cameron’s emotional instability. You can’t escape the suspicion that everyone is a mark to him.

Hughes touches on some quite dark themes of depression and suicide with Cameron’s character, but you never get the sense that Bueller actually cares about him. His diagnosis that Cameron just needs more sexual experience in order to be able to assert himself is both sexist and wide off the mark. There's also a deeply weird moment where Cameron leering at Bueller’s girlfriend is framed as some sort of moment of personal growth. Cameron feels like a character from another film – someone with demons to exorcise who unfortunately has only Bueller and Hughes to help him.

It's a self-indulgent film, with expensive helicopter shots, an arty montage sequence in a gallery, and an over-the-top parade scene that feels like the film has momentarily turned into a musical. Although it is still a collection of parts, the focus on a single character who directly lectures his audience makes for a less disjointed film than something like The Breakfast Club. Ed Rooney is a cartoon villain, and his attempts to catch Bueller prefigures Hughes's script for Home Alone. The fact that such childishness sits alongside scenes in which Cameron and Sloane walk around Chicago admitting their existential terror at the prospect of the future makes this a weird hybrid – both a kids comedy and a teen drama. Much like Bueller's outrageous schemes, it just about manages to hang together.

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