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The Sure Thing (1985)

May 11th, 2007 · 5 Comments

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While contemplating the stars and asking a female party guest “How would you like to have a sexual experience so intense it could conceivably change your political views?” fails to impress, Walter “Gib” Gibson (John Cusack) confides in his buddy Lance (Anthony Edwards) that he’s lost his touch.

Attending a small northwestern college in the fall, Gib’s losing streak with the ladies continues when he fails to score any points with an articulate – but uptight – English classmate named Alison (Daphne Zuniga) who’s put off by Gib’s beer and pizza persona.

Lance attempts to brighten Gib’s spirits by inviting him to Los Angeles for Christmas break. Here, a gorgeous blonde (Nicollette Sheridan) who Lance promises is a “sure thing” awaits him. Gib finds a rideshare, but discovers that Alison is coming along for the trip.

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Their bickering upsets the showtunes singing couple (Tim Robbins and Lisa Jane Persky) in the front seat. Gib accuses Alison of being repressed, and when she takes off her top and flashes a passing car, they find themselves on the side of the road, without a ride to Los Angeles.

Gib gradually endears himself to Alison as he helps her survive on the road, and she decides that rather than take the bus to L.A., she’ll stick with him. Gib’s feelings for Alison cool once he discovers that she’s going west to visit her boyfriend. When Alison learns what Gib’s holidays plans are, she’s not thrilled with him either.

Steven Bloom & Jonathan Roberts were college pals rooming together in L.A. Bloom had an idea for a movie based on his school days, about a guy trying to get from college to a sure thing. Neither had written a screenplay before, but they came to the attention of a young producer named Roger Birnbaum. The writers pitched their script to every studio in town and were turned down by every studio in town.

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Birnbaum pleaded his case with an executive at Embassy Pictures and was able to talk the studio into developing the project. They sent it to Rob Reiner, the actor who had just finished his first film as director, This Is Spinal Tap. Reiner saw an opportunity to make a comedy for teens that wasn’t dopey, but actually had some intelligence and wit to it.

Bloom & Roberts could have easily aspired to Porky’s, but were instead inspired to write a teenage It Happened One Night. It starts off exactly like every other horny teenager movie of the day, but as soon as Cusack enters, becomes much more than that; it’s an elegant romantic comedy with a welcome degree of depth.

Cusack was only 17 when cast in this – his first starring role – but is instantly likable. He nails a rambling monologue that’s just as funny as anything he’d ever perform. Tim Robbins flies in out of nowhere and is hilarious. The film’s ending is never in question, but Reiner has terrific sophistication for character and structure, and keeps things moving. It says a lot that The Sure Thing gets confused with Say Anything … This is probably the best Cameron Crowe movie never actually written by Crowe.

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Tags: Coming of age · Dreams and visions · Drunk scene · Master and pupil · Road trip · Unconventional romance

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Becca // May 9, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Oh dear god I hated this movie…still your post was interesting!

  • 2 Piper // May 10, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Loved and love this movie.While it’s a bit cringeworthy at the beginning when the teacher says that students should make love in a hammock and Cusak high fives someone, and the bar scene where Cusak is supposed to be drunk still makes me want to crawl out of my own skin. Yet the scenes with his roommate, the crazy scene with the truck driver that tries to attack Daphne and mostly the car scene with Tim Robbins are among my favorite scenes.

    And this still holds one of my the best exchanges and I often replay it to friends.

    The scene where they have no car, it’s raining and they find some shelter only to find that it has no roof.

    Daphne: Wait, I have a credit card. Oh, but I’m only supposed to use it for emergencies.

    Cusak: Maybe one will come up.

  • 3 Stacey // May 13, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Great movie. It is a small step down from Reiner’s masterpiece of romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally. The reason Reiner is so wonderful is that his movies feel so real. The people, the stories aren’t contrived. My favorite scene, strangely enough, in this is when they get jealous over each other at the punch bowl near the end. Just reminds me of a typical college student’s dialogue and emotions.

  • 4 Jim // Apr 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    This is a great movie. I agree When Harry Met Sally might be the gold standard for comedies, this one is terrific. I first saw this movie when I was in college, and it was one of the more accurate depictions of college life. I was not a partier, but I had to chuckle when the guy puts the speaker in the window and screams, “It’s Friday night.” That’s, in many respects, how I remembered my university being.

  • 5 maysie // May 6, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Definately one of the best movies ever made in my book. One you can keep coming back to years later.
    Daphne Zuniga does the best facial expressions, a truely talented actress at her age
    The chemistry between the two just holds me to this movie, and everytime I watch it, I wish I was there.

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