Saturday, August 23, 2014

13. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Code-name: NRVS
(as seen on Cameron's license plate)
[my favorite quote of the whole movie, lol]

Writer/Director: John Hughes

Type: Brat Pack high school dramedy


Ferris Bueller- Matthew Broderick
Cameron Frye- Alan Ruck
Sloane Peterson- Mia Sara
Jeanie Bueller- Jennifer Grey
Principal Ed Rooney- Jeffrey Jones
Grace- Edie McClurg
Mr. Bueller- Lyman Ward
Mrs. Bueller- Cindy Pickett
[Honorable Mentions]
Economics Teacher- Ben Stein
Junkie at Police Station- Charlie Sheen

Notable Nomination:
Golden Globe- Best Actor (comedy/musical)- Matthew Broderick

Opening Thoughts

Really closing in on the end here...

Of the 12 remaining, all but 4 are personal favorites of mine.
The other 4: I'd seen within the past 3 years that impressed me so much I couldn't not include them. And yeah, a couple of them were influenced by other people who claimed they deserved Oscars or described them as "sleepers" that gained notoriety as the years have gone by.

In this case of "Ferris Bueller"... I don't remember the logistics of how it came to my attention, when and why. I don't even remember if it was my first or 2nd John Hughes film... It's just always been a personal favorite, always worth a revisit when nothing else is on TV.

Seriously, it is on TV so often I never bothered getting it on DVD even though it's only $7.50.

Directing and Casting

John Hughes will get his due for sure in my blog because I'm a huge fan of his movies.

Not so much to the point I'd literally seen every one, but I'm working on it.

He's known for working with a certain group of actors and interestingly, "Ferris Bueller" doesn't fit into this dynamic at all. The closest connection we have to the Brat Pack is Charlie Sheen (his brother Emilio turned down the role of Cameron as did Anthony Michael Hall, for the same reason as "Pretty in Pink"-- didn't want to be typecast).

He's also known for always setting his movies in Chicago and having "Shermer" in some context. In this case, I believe it's the name of the town.

Supposedly, this movie was his love letter to the city, containing famous landmarks like the Sears Tower, attractions like the Art Institute of Chicago... even a local parade (Von Steuben Day Parade) featured in one of the film's most iconic scenes.

As Emma Stone called it in "Easy A," that "musical number for no apparent reason."
...I'm sure the Channel Awesome people would consider it a "big-lipped alligator moment"

So many big names auditioned for the title role (Rob Lowe, John Cusack, Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Eric Stoltz, RDJ)... I'd be curious to see Downey's version of Bueller (for my personal reasons obviously but also to see him have a GOOD role in an 80's movie)... even then, I wouldn't change any of the casting choices for this movie.

The key with Ferris was getting a guy who was charming and easy on the eyes. Exactly why John Hughes wanted Matthew Broderick: he made this character likeable.

Previous to this film, Matthew and Alan Ruck were in a stage of production of "Bilouxi Blues" together and when it came to finding Cameron, Matthew recommended Alan Ruck without hesitation because they got along so well. John Hughes had previously seen him at a "Breakfast Club" audition for the role of John Bender.

As for Sloane Peterson, Ferris's girlfriend, Molly Ringwald auditioned but missed out on the part because Mia Sara (who'd had few other roles since) had the special something John Hughes wanted for the part.

Matthew Broderick had charm, Mia Sara had elegance... funny enough, she was the only member of the trio who was a teenager.

I would have figured that Jennifer Grey did this before "Dirty Dancing" because it made more sense for her to play an antagonist after being such a goody-toe-shoes... but nope, the opposite is true and for me, it's still hard to believe it's the same person playing both these roles. I can't help but feel bad for her throughout this, particularly when she calls the cops, asking for help and they're more concerned about her "dying" brother than her safety. Imagine a slasher film with that scenario, the inane possibilities!

Ultimately, though, she does come around and decides to be the bigger person. Then again, someone had to put an end to Ed Rooney's manhunt.

Writing and Improvising

John Hughes wrote the "first draft" of the script in 6 days, but according to some behind-the-scenes gossip, this film's production was a particularly stressful one: both for him and the cast. Before the edits, the film ran for 2 hours and 45 minutes (roughly an hour longer than the final product). Even while they were shooting, he'd be doing all kinds of rewrites... what can you say? Either you view him negatively or consider the possibility he might be a genius... and as is often the case, geniuses can be difficult to work with.

On the plus side, this made room for some kick-ass improvisations.

Probably this movie's most underappreciated is Edie McClug, unforgettable as Principal Ed Rooney's secretary. Someone as rabid about catching Ferris as Ed Rooney (almost like Captain Ahab crazy), they need someone to humor them and at least try to keep them in line. She got her "training" at the Groundlings, a notable LA-based improv group who generated stars like dozens of SNL alums, Jon Lovitz... even Mr. Miyagi himself, Pat Morita.

Her best line in this movie: adding "they think he's a righteous dude" to the end of her laundry list of cliques that adore Ferris.
Just a great dynamic: her and Ed Rooney.

Another scene-stealer is, naturally, Ben Stein as the economics professor.

The roll-call scene was in the script, but his lecture on voo-doo economics and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff... that was all improvised on the spot. John Hughes simply told him to give a lecture, putting his economics degree to good use.
Very briefly in my 11th grade Social Studies class, my professor brought up the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, namedropping the movie in the process.

The best that Matthew Broderick came with [to the best of my knowledge]... "Never had one lesson," playing the clarinet badly. Emma Stone did better on that guitar in "Easy A" :P not that it was meant to be any good.

I suppose you could also say that Cameron's "Mr. Peterson" impression was an improvisation since he decided to base the voice on someone he and Matthew got to know quite well at their previous gig: Gene Saks (their "Bilouxi Blues" director).

Analyze This

Movies came up a couple times in my Psychology class in 12th grade.

We were talking about Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis model, which consisted of the ID, ego and superego.
In layman's terms, I guess, ego is the individual with the superego and ID being the angel and devil on the individual's shoulders instructing him what to do and what not to do.

Case in point: Ferris Bueller is the ID in the situation, wanting to go all out on this day off, not worrying about the consequences and such.

Cameron is the superego, which constantly bears the norms of society in mind and prefers to stay within those guidelines.

Fascinating stuff... and definitely an interesting way to look at this movie differently.
Sadly, for the record, I'm more of a Cameron than a Ferris, but that's probably a good thing... right?


This are so many details to love about this movie it's hard to know where to begin. A lot of them are the little things. Certain quotes, certain pieces of music...

The most notable pieces of music:

  • "Danke Schoen"- featured 4 times throughout the movie almost like it was a running joke or an undercurrent theme
  • [what I call] Ferris's theme, "Oh Yeah" by Yello. (really no intelligible lyrics to speak off, but the "chicacha" when the music disappears... it's just oddly memorable)
  • The Dream Academy's instrumental cover of The Smiths' "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" that plays during the museum scene... it just stirs me up inside, so beautiful and a perfect companion for this scene
During the trio's trek through Chicago, we see all kinds of good stuff. I love the Sears tower scene where Ferris says "anything looks peaceful from 1,353 feet" and Cameron's like "I think I see my dad..."
I just learned a couple years ago (as did a lot of other pop culture buffs) that they filmed at an actual Chicago Cubs game and it took place June 5 1985.
The Museum has no dialogue, just the music, but nonetheless one of the most powerful moments in the movie. Cameron having that existential moment with "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat.

Then there's the Frye household, which had been put on the market multiple times. The previous time I took note of a couple years ago, it was for $1.65M.

If I could afford, I think I'd be interested in taking it, even though the 1961 Ferrari GT250 doesn't come with it.
I remember hearing how much people freaked out about its ultimate fate in the movie, the Porsche from "Risky Business" still fresh in their minds... the reassurance came that it wasn't a real Ferrari, but a modified MG sports car.

Early on, what set this movie apart for me: Ferris Bueller breaking the 4th wall, talking to the audience (so much comedic gold there!), simply because it was something I'd never seen before.

It's part of the reason why Zack Morris from "Saved by the Bell" was based on this character because he did the same thing throughout the series.

Then there were a few random moments I can't help but enjoy every time.

  • Cameron muttering "Ferris Bueller, you're my hero" after he almost drowns in a pool in a catatonic state after finding the Ferrari had over 3,000 miles on it (curse those valets! j/k, they were freaking hilarious)
  • Jeanie ninja-kicking Rooney after discovering him in the house-- priceless
  • the entire police station scene!
Jeanie finally gets a chance to air all her grievances and who better to listen than a total stranger.
It's well known that Charlie Sheen stayed awake for 48 hours straight to get the druggie look he has in his cameo. After his 2012 meltdown, I haven't been the biggest fan of his, but I still enjoy his 80's contributions. Especially in this small role. He's exactly what Jeanie needs: a sympathetic ear, but also someone to tell her like it is.

For whatever reason, one quote always stuck with me. He asks her name and she says "It's Jeanie, but my friends call me Shauna" and in the background we hear an echo "Shauna!" from what sounds like a 1950's quartet.
Whenever we hear the name Shauna spoken, my sister and I echo that one line.
And it's strange... such a random quote that has no bearing on the plot whatsoever :P

And despite all the comedic elements, we have a lot seriousness thrown in between so we get an education as well as a good time.

I'm not just talking about Ferris's "How to Fake Out Your Parents" monologue, but what's immediately after. Talking about his dislike of isms and he quotes John Lennon:

"'I don't believe in Beatles. I just believe in me.' Good Point there. After all he was the walrus... I could be the walrus." [hmm... John Hughes was a noted Beatles fan. I wonder if that's the reason Anthony Michael Hall did the 'walrus' line in "The Breakfast Club"]
and of course the most poignant line at the beginning and end of the movie:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

It's a genuine classic. The whole theory that it occurs all inside Cam's mind makes it all the more interesting, I must say. Good review Jackie.