“Life moves pretty fast,” according to Ferris Bueller, and that couldn’t be more true. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is all about stopping to look around and appreciate the life you live, rather than staying wrapped up in your day-to-day responsibilities. Ferris, joined by his girlfriend Sloane and his best friend Cameron, take a “sick day” and reflect on the importance of living life to the fullest. Throughout the film, Ferris is pursued by his high school principal, Mr. Rooney, and his sister Jeanie, who are out to prove that he’s not actually ill. Meanwhile, the news of Ferris’ feigned illness has traveled throughout town and his local community rallies around him – even painting “Save Ferris” on the water tower. Through the movie, you see Ferris drag his friends out of their comfort zones and take them on an adventure through the Windy City.
I watched this movie with one of my close friends who had never seen the movie before. Not ten minutes in, after Ferris has successfully convinced his parents to let him skip school, he calls his best friend who is legitimately in bed sick and convinces him to hang out. Hayden looked at me and said, “Okay, you’re Ferris and I’m Cameron.” This is such a good film because everyone knows a Ferris. There is someone in all of our lives that is the adventurer, the “let’s skip class and get milkshakes instead,” the one who is always willing to stop the monotony of daily life and do something for the hell of it. For those of us that aren’t quite that spontaneous, Cameron’s character serves as the relatable one. He reluctantly agrees to go along with Ferris’ antics, but ultimately ends up enjoying himself and realizing what he needs to change in order to live life to the fullest. Ferris’ parents, who so easily believe his illness, are everyone’s mom and dad – well-meaning and always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to their precious child. Of course Ferris didn’t have a fever or cohesive symptoms, but that didn’t matter. He said he was sick, so naturally he had to stay home. I can think of at least a dozen times where I feigned illness and played hooky in high school. It’s practically a rite of passage.
Watching this film for the second time, I made a point to focus on how music was used throughout. I always found myself dancing and singing along, but I would have never considered Ferris Bueller’s Day Off a musical. Sure, it had music, but true musicals are annoying. There films where characters burst into song at inappropriate times, about trivial things in their lives. Case and point: High School Musical 1, 2 &, 3. What surprised me the most was how many orchestral pieces were used in the film. They are used, in particular, to illustrate the actions of certain characters and make the time where they’re on screen, not speaking, more interesting. A particular scene that comes to mind is when Mr. Rooney pulls up at Ferris’ house, intent on catching him skipping school. The music plays into Rooney’s characterization as a larger-than-life authority figure, the kind of guy who thinks he has more power than he does. Rooney essentially goes on a hunt for Ferris, to prove that he is skipping and therefore not as good of a kid as everyone seems to think he is. So, booming musical number fit for a cheesy, TV cop crime show circa 1980 works very well here. To the same tune, pop music is used excellently to accompany Ferris and his friends. Towards the end of the film, Ferris joins a parade going through downtown and jumps onto a float to sing “Twist and Shout,” which is a song about letting loose and dancing. Ferris’ whole day has been about letting loose; it’s only fitting that he leads the crowd in song and dance about doing that very thing. While it’s not a traditional musical in any sense, music certainly plays an important part in this film. It aids in character development, which can be difficult to do well. The film itself is full of youthful exuberance, and the soundtrack certainly plays a large part in creating that mood.
There’s a reason why Ferris’ Bueller’s Day Off is highly regarded as one of the most popular movies by director John Hughes. At face value, it is the story of a teenager dealing with the trials and tribulation of high school. It’s a story about a kid wants to play videogames and hang out with his friends while everyone else is stuck learning European History. More than that, Ferris is dealing with the impending upset of going to college, separating from his friends and leaving behind the comfort of the life he’s always known. So, it makes perfect sense that he would want to skip school, pick up his best friend and his girlfriend, drive a Ferrari in downtown Chicago, go to an art museum, and dance in a parade. The sounds in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off don’t simply fade into the background nor do they serve as ambiance within scenes. They contribute to the scenes as separate actors, by taking what we already know about a character we’ve been introduced to and building on it through music notes rather than dialogue or action. That’s a beautiful thing. If I had to give Ferris Bueller a grade, I’d give him an A+ for understanding what life is all about.