A Scholarly (Yes!) Look at Ferris Bueller

Posted on January 4, 2017 at 8:00 am

I’m a fan of Steve Almond’s writing, and really enjoyed his take on “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” especially his discussion of the relationship between Ferris (Matthew Broderick) and Cameron (Alan Ruck).

Hughes could have simply cast as a straight man for Ferris. But he does something far more compelling: he renders the pair as a psychological dyad. Ferris is fearless, larger-than-life. He has internalized the unconditional love of his parents and skips through his days in a self-assured reverie. He is what every teenage guy dreams of being: a raging, narcissistic id who gets away with it. Cameron is an actual teenager: alienated from his parents, painfully insecure, angry, depressed.

It is the tension between these two that drives the action.

He puts the story into context as more than a lighthearted wish fulfillment.

 Hughes performed an astounding ontological feat. He lured viewers into embracing his film as an escapist farce, then hit them with a pitch-perfect exploration of teen angst. He snuck genuine art past the multiplex censors.

He writes about the scene where Cameron argues with himself about whether he will do as his friend Ferris asks and leave home for a “day off.”


The sequence lasts barely a minute. It is an astonishing piece of physical humor, an emotional ballet worthy of Chaplin. Hell, it’s one of the best pieces of acting I’ve ever seen, period. Because it’s not just funny, it’s heartbreaking. We are watching a kid utterly crippled by his own conflicted impulses, torn between outrage and obedience.

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