Life moves pretty fast


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Paramount Pictures, 1986

From The Paris Review:

My husband and I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) the other night. He’d never seen it before, to the consternation of his Facebook friends, and I last saw it a decade ago, when I remember having been vaguely entertained. Not this time, though. “God, he’s kind of awful, isn’t he?” Peter commented, about ten minutes in. I agreed but was fascinated. Before my eyes, the rentier class was daydreaming a special dream, a dream of getting away from the drudges and the scolds …

I was not fascinated by the plot, which is thin. A high-school senior named Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, feigns illness in order to play hooky and persuades a hypochondriacal friend and a bland girlfriend to follow him on a tour of Chicago, visiting a fancy restaurant, a baseball game, an art museum, and a German-American heritage parade. The movie depends heavily on Broderick’s charm as an actor, on his mix of too careful enunciation, direct address to the camera, and pale pink pubescence in the shower. In the opening scene, director John Hughes takes a rather large risk: Ferris lies to his parents with large calf eyes, giggling and lapsing into baby talk. What kind of movie hero consciously presents himself as infantile and duplicitous? What kind of movie hero begins by seducing his parents?

The answer seemed to be hiding in two places: in the comically flagrant symbol of a red Ferrari, which I’ll get to in a moment, and more cleverly, in moments protested by the movie’s characters as not worth paying attention to at all. Why, when Ferris wants to convey how boring high school is, does he say he’s skipping a test on European socialism? Why does Hughes feature as a sample of academic ennui the actor and conservative pundit Ben Stein’s explanation of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 and the supply-side economics of the 1980s?

“Totaling the Ferrari: Ferris Bueller Revisted”, Caleb Crain, The Paris Review

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Paramount Pictures, 1986