Jeff Ruby’s Day Off

The Closer tests the legendary Ferris Bueller Timeline Problem

In the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris skips school with his buddy Cameron and his girlfriend, Sloane, and gads around Chicago. Film geeks posit that Ferris couldn’t possibly have accomplished everything he does in the movie in one day and still have returned to his north suburban home by six o’clock, ahead of his parents. Recently, I re-created Ferris’s day as closely as I could, complete with companions. I couldn’t be exact, unfortunately: My Cameron did not have a gleaming 1961 Ferrari 250 GT in his father’s garage, for example. His dad drives a Nissan. And while my Sloane wore gray suede boots like her movie counterpart’s, she had to be back at work by three.

Movie: Ferris rescues Sloane from the smarmy dean, subversively mocking him before squealing out of the parking lot.
Me: We’re greeted by curious construction workers. When we try to peel out, the car almost stalls.

Movie: Cameron reluctantly parts with his father’s car, certain that the slippery parking attendant will take it for a joy ride. He promptly takes
it for a joy ride.
I gladly hand over the keys to my Honda, which still has the kids’ Cheerios stuck to the seat. Our attendant doesn’t appear eager to drive it anywhere, or even park it.

Movie: Ferris and friends punctuate their quick visit to the Skydeck by pressing their faces to the glass and looking down.
We’re ushered through a subterranean maze of gift shops and lines and forced to endure a History Channel documentary. Only when we are 1,353 feet up does Cameron mention his fear of heights. Sloane texts a friend. I push my forehead against the glass alone.

Movie: After watching the action at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange from a private room, Ferris scores a table at a snooty restaurant by impersonating Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago, humiliates the priggish maître d’, and orders pancreas.
Me: After learning that the CME gallery no longer permits walk-ins, we cab it to Cyrano’s, the only spot I can find serving sweetbreads for lunch. (Chez Quis doesn’t exist.) Turns out Cyrano’s isn’t serving sweetbreads—it isn’t even serving lunch. Froman, party of three, eats wings at Hooters.

Movie: Ferris has choice seats and catches a foul ball.
Me: All I can get is upper-upper deck, where I show my itinerary to the guy beside me. “You’re insane!” he says. “You’re taking the Edens? It’s under construction.”

Movie: Ferris blends in with a class of second graders, sees countless works of art, and kisses Sloane in front of Chagall’s windows.
Me: My neighbor, an Art Institute employee, has given me an annotated map so we can find every painting featured in the film in record time. Sloane is gone, and so are Chagall’s windows, which are being restored. When confronted with a camp group parked in front of a Kandinsky, we push them out of the way.

Movie: Ferris hijacks a float and sings “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout,” setting off a raucous Loop-wide dance party.
Von Steuben Day isn’t until September. Near the corner of Dearborn and Adams, where it’s raining, I sing and dance for an audience consisting of (1) the red Calder sculpture and (2) Cameron.

Movie: The trio speed to the North Shore, where Ferris and Sloane attend to Cameron, shell-shocked by the mileage the joy-riding parking attendant put on the car.
@#$*ing Edens. It takes two hours—until 6:15—to go 24 miles. Since we’ve missed our deadline, we skip the movie’s trip to Sloane’s swimming pool and jump into the lake.

Movie: Cameron trashes his father’s Ferrari in their Highland Park garage.
After circling aimlessly in search of 370 Beach Street, where we thought the scene was filmed, we realize it was at 370 Beech Street, four miles away.

Movie: Ferris walks Sloane home, sprints to his sickbed, and arrives seconds before his parents.
Me: The Bueller house used in the movie was in Southern California, so we drive through a flash flood in search of Butternut Lane in Northbrook, where neighborhood scenes were filmed. Just when we find it at 7:45, Mrs. Closer calls, demanding we “stop farting around and come home.”

Ferris Bueller said life moves pretty fast, but apparently he didn’t take the Edens.

Photography: Paramount Pictures



6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I love it! We just watched the movie the other night, in preparation for the new school year and it endures as a classic comedy.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I've always wondered how they got all that done in one day! Thank you for testing it out!

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

This movie is like a love note to the city. And if I'm not mistaken, the word "Chicago" is only spoken three times in the whole film...and only in incidentel ways.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

This story brings back some good memories and converstations about Ferris Bueller.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Jeff and I have argued about this many times, but it always comes back to something we call "The Lee Smith Conundrum". When Rooney's in the pizza parlor with the game on, barely missing seeing Ferris catch the foul ball, you can hear Harry Caray refer to the current pitcher: Lee Smith. Smith was a closer (how appropriate), and even though the role of the closer has changed a bit in the last 25 years, he still basically only pitched in the eighth or ninth innings. Even if we give the movie the benefit of the doubt that the usual 1:20 starting time was pushed up (and there's no evidence that Ferris was there for the opening pitch anyway, though why would Sloan be scoring the game if she started in the middle?) and the game went fast, it would have to be around 3:00 at the earliest when that event occurred. So with traffic, they have to get back downtown to spend quality time at the Art Institute *and* participate in a parade, all before they drive back to the suburbs to beat Ferris' parents home at 6. I'm telling you it can't be done.

Of course the response to all of this logic is usually "it's just a movie."

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

The Lee Smith Conundrum used to be How the Hell did he not make the hall of fame? But this is much funnier.

6 years ago
Posted by gkedlin

We really like your articles in Chicago, but request, please, that in restaurant reviews the names of the restaurants not be in light blue, so if we wish to fax a small article to a friend the name of the restaurant will get through OK.
Many thanks.
Gene Edlin

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