The Sure Thing (1985)
Genre: Coming of age romance
Once I’d seen “Say Anything,” I knew I’d eventually have to finally, after all these years, watch this whole movie. Yep, I’d seen bits and pieces of it on TV but always ended up flipping the channel, maybe because I’d never seen it from the start. It’s cute, it’s sweet, it’s dated but it’s much better than I thought it would be.
Freshman Walter “Gib” Gibson (John Cusack) is headed to California over winter break to hook up with a bikini wearing hot young thing (Nicollette Sheridan) whom Gib’s friend Lance (Anthony Edwards) assures him is a “Sure Thing.” Along for the ride is fellow Ivy League student Alison (Daphne Zuniga), with whom Gib has already struck out, on her way to see her boyfriend Jason (Boyd Gains).
Goaded by Gib during an argument on whether or not she’s repressed, Alison pulls a stunt that gets them both tossed out of the car somewhere along the roadside in Georgia. Now they’ve got to hitch their way to LA, keep from killing each other and, just maybe, fall in love.
Oh wow, the music and clothes take me straight back to the mid 80s and my days in college. Director Rob Reiner says the music dates the movie but still the songs are all so lyrically perfect for their spots in the film that I wouldn’t see them changed even if it made the film more “timeless.” I was puzzled by Reiner’s statement that they did some faux ZZ Top music for the 18 wheeler scene because the production couldn’t afford the real thing when most of the other songs were also by top stars of the day and they were included. Oh, well.
Cusack plays another sorta angsty older teenager. He’s not as perfect a man as in “Say Anything” but then it’s his job here to become more like that wonderful character. He starts out as a typical – let’s be honest – horny young man interested in using the usual pick up lines men try in order to get laid. Yet it’s obvious, as he saves Alison from a hitchhike gone wrong by doing a crazed maniac routine, that he’s a decent guy underneath. Zuniga does one of her clenched personality roles – see also “Gross Anatomy” – here and is in some serious need of fun and letting loose. She’s wound so tight I’m amazed that she doesn’t explode. Her role is to discover that you can be studious and still have a good time. And to learn to shotgun beer.
There are some great actors in secondary roles including Edwards before he becomes “Goose.” Here he’s got the superficial, frat boy charm down pat. Plus I love his imported beer decorated bedroom. I remember frat rooms like that! Boyd Gains plays the wonderfully repressed boyfriend who looks like he starches the boxer shorts he probably wears under his all beige wardrobe. Watch for his tea collection and start saying “Earl Grey” the way he does. Tim Robbins and Lisa Jane Persky are hilarious as the earnest “gee whiz, this is fun” show tune singing couple driving the car during the start of the journey to CA.
The way that Reiner goes about getting these characters to see life from the other side is, as one commenter at IMDB says, tender and innocent. Sure it’s predictable how things will turn out and even some of what’s going to happen along the way but no one acts like an ass. Even when Gib gets drunk in a cocktail lounge, he still doesn’t come back to the hotel room and vomit on anything. During the scene where they end up sharing a bed and wake up curled around each other, there’s no groping, there are no dirty jokes, there’s just Gib confused by the feelings he’s starting to have for Alison.
By the end of the movie, of course Gib has now gotten past meaningless, shallow sex while Alison is willing to listen to him and believe his declarations. As in “Say Anything,” it’s a public declaration though this time instead of using a boom box, it’s an English term paper that wins the heroine’s heart. This is a sweet coming of age movie with a HFN ending of two people learning that sometimes the best person for you isn’t someone who is the same as you, but one who compliments you. B