Classic films and storylines left open: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Some movies end with what you see as a clean ending. Some movies end with aspects of the story still open for speculation when you care about the characters involved. I usually end up thinking of 1993’s The Fugitive and wondering what happens next with Dr. Richard Kimble and Deputy Sam Gerard. Yeah, they drive off and it looks like Kimble will be freed, but that’s a story unto itself (due process) as well as the story of Kimble vs. Gerard playing out directly in a non-hunt fashion.

But a 24 year old movie isn’t the focus of this post… No, no, I’m going back further into film history with a teen classic. It’s comedy goodness and teen angst mixed into one utopian ball of Chicagoland adventure and hilarity.

You ever seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Of course you have… or at least you damned well better consider it in the immediate future. The 1986 film is dated but the basic point is teens skipping school.

While Ferris is the focus, there is another storyline that is not resolved on screen with the movie’s end (“Life moves pretty, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” Repeated by Bueller to end the flick… Well, at least the main movie. It’s actually Ferris telling you, post credits, the film is over and you should go home now). Ferris’ best friend, Cameron Frye, has a mess to deal with: A 1961 Ferrari GT, the love and passion of his father Morris Frye.

It’s Cameron who epitomizes teen angst mostly in the film. He holds strong contempt toward his father to say the least. In fact, it’s the climax of the film where Cameron explodes and it results in the demolition of the Ferrari:

And while Ferris vows to take the blame (and the disaster that would come with it for his personal life), Cameron accepts responsibility himself. It’s his confrontation to have and he’ll deal with the consequences. (Side note: Sloan, Ferris’ girlfriend, thinks this was part of Ferris’ scheme for the day off from start to finish. I’ll leave it to you to judge if that’s what the deal was or not).

So, Ferris and Sloan leave, everyone’s returning home… And what happens with Cameron Frye in his confrontation with his father???

The first conclusion someone could draw from this is, “whatever it was, it wasn’t film worthy or John Hughes would have put it in the flick.” That is a good way to dismiss the confrontation but it doesn’t tell you the story of that evening for Cameron. It’s too loaded and too baited in the climax to truly be something to just brush off.

Yet, I think about the confrontation of Cameron and his father (I picture Morris Frye as actor Terry Kiser who you may know better as Bernie Lomax among other roles – no, I don’t imagine he’s dead) and what I see is an unexpected reaction. Cameron is in the garage, stern, strong willed, ready for war, and a suited Morris Frye, fresh home from work, has walked in on the open garage.

“What are you doing in here? I thought you were sick?” He’s walking in and doesn’t see the car… but sees the smashed rear window. He slows down and approaches without saying a word. He looks down and sees his beloved, classic automobile smoldering in the hilly ravine behind the garage and starts a mix of crying and laughing.

I can see Cameron stepping up immediately and taking responsibility in one way or another – perhaps by attacking over love for the car by dad; loving the car and generally hating the family… And yet, Morris’ reaction isn’t out of heartbreak, anger and disgust, it’s that cracking up aspect. He stops Cameron not by yelling, but by putting his arm around him while keeping up his hysterics. The incident rings Morris Frye just as much as it scares and stings Cameron… But I see it as a message that Cameron has grown up. I see it as a message for Morris that his material dream is done and it’s back to reality.

Does Cameron get in trouble? Oh, yeah, yeah, but it’s a whole different situation than what you’d expect. It’s not a war between the Frye family members. I just can’t picture how that goes. I can’t picture how Cameron’s mom (who is in Decatur, Illinois during the movie) plays into things.

Maybe I’m dead wrong, but I just see everything twisting at this critical non-film climactic moment. What’s built up as hate and angst in the movie deflates with Morris’ reaction to the end of his love affair. Cameron’s not the sickly boy any more, and my car isn’t where I can invest myself in full.

That’s drawing conclusions on my part, and the point is that there are times in cinema where things are left to have that happen. What happens with Cameron Frye is a big angle as he is a big angle.

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