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Friday Film Review: The Sure Thing

The Sure Thing (1985)
Genre: Coming of age romance
Grade: B

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


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Leigh Bardugo
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 04:34:29

    I have such fond memories of this movie. I’ll never forget Cusack playing crazy to rescue Zuniga from the pervy old man. “I think I’ll take your wife!”

  2. eggs
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 04:36:21

    OMG … I cannot tell you how many times I watched this movie as a teenager! I think I fell in love with John Cusack when I first saw this. Or was it during Better Off Dead? It is the perfect 80’s teen romance movie where the hero is a shallow, would-be-if-he-could-be-whore dick, who redeems himself by interacting with and learning to love the stuffy-square-up-herself heroine. Nobody is too stupid, nobody is too perfect, and everybody has that 80’s obsession with being honest about themselves, even when it pains them. I like that ugly warts-and-all honesty much better than the striving-to-better-yourself-and-grow-as-a-person business that infests teen/college flicks of today. Too may hyphens, I know, but I still feel the love for this film 25 odd years later!

  3. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 05:28:50

    @eggs: It seems like a lot of people still feel the love for it 25 years later which, to me, says it’s a good movie.

  4. Lexxie Couper
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 07:30:17

    Oh Lord, another movie you’ve reviewed that I quote from almost every day.

    I love that I can watch this film over and over and still find something new I didn’t see/hear/notice before. I love the character development of both Gib and Alison and I especially love Tim Robbins’ laugh after he say “Hi, I’m Gary Cooper, but not the Gary Cooper that’s dead.”

    And whenever I meet someone called Nick, I can’t help myself but say “Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car” (At this point newly-met Nick usually tries to avoid me as much as possible. *sigh* I need to get a life, I think)

  5. jayhjay
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 08:05:46

    Love this movie! And I still check under the bed EVERY SINGLE TIME I am in a hotel room before I leave. This movie taught me that, lol!

  6. Christine
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 08:36:30

    @Jayne -I loved this movie when it came out and remember watching it about a thousand times on cable when it made it there. I adored the scene where they wake up in the fancy hotel cuddled together. I thought it was the most romantic thing ever.

    @Eggs- Isn’t Better Off Dead one of the best technically “bad” movies ever? You can never get “two dollars! I want my two dollars!” out of your head. Or pronounce “French dressing” the same way again.

  7. Amy Kathryn
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 09:36:59

    I can’t remember, does Joan appear in this movie?

    If I listed my favorite movies, I think a Cusack is in a majority of them. That leads to the question of whether Joan is in one that did not have John? (ETA..thought of one, Working Girl!)

  8. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 09:44:03

    @Amy Kathryn: Runaway Bride, In & Out. I love Joan too and the two of them usually work so well together.

  9. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 09:44:52

    @Christine: Okay, I simply have to see that movie too since so many people have said good things about it.

    ETA – just got back from Netlix and realize I’ve already seen it. And it didn’t work at all for me. Except for the cartoon hamburger part.

  10. Kim
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 10:13:48

    This was such a good comedy and it’s still funny today.

  11. Chicklet
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 11:44:44

    There are so many lines in this movie I still quote on a regular basis. “Hey bud, I’m talking to you cordless!” “I mean a guy who would rip out your heart and eat it just for pleasure!” “Barkeep! Get this man a trough of spritzer.” It’s a perfect example of the journey being as important as the destination: You know what the ending will be, so the joy comes from how it gets to that ending.

  12. Kelly in Hockeytown
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 18:19:48

    I quote this movie now and then too.

    “Who invented liquid soap and why?”

    Or when he goes to the bar and offers to buy a drink for the VERY large man seated on the stool next to him and the guy says he wants something light and fruity, so Cusack tells the bartender, “a trough of spritzer for my new friend” LOL

    My absolute fave scene is when it starts to rain and Cusack & Zuniga are looking to get out of the rain. First they find a wooden shack/shed but it turns out there is a huge hole in the roof. And then they find a locked trailer, which Cusack points out is in the middle of nowhere so why is it locked? He then asks Zuniga for a bobby pin and instead she whips out a credit card and he says, no, wrong kind of lock and she says, no I HAVE a credit card! Oh, but my dad said it was ONLY to be used in case of an emergency. Cusack’s droll reply of “well, maybe one will pop up” always makes me laugh.

    Can you tell I love this movie? ;-)

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