The Sure Thing Film Details
Overview: Walter Gibson is a university freshman going through a dry spell. His old buddy arranges a “sure thing” for him in California. Gibson and his classmate Allison then take a long road trip out to Cali, and both foil each other’s plans.
Tagline: A sure thing comes once in a lifetime… but the real thing lasts forever.
Review: The Sure Thing is one of Rob Reiner’s lesser known films from the 80s. It was his second feature after making his debut a year earlier with the superb This Is Spinal Tap. And although TST is just as good as anything else Reiner was producing during this period, its never gone on to cult status like his other films of the 80s. Certainly not when compared to Spinal Tap or The Princess Bride. And The Sure Thing proves that Spinal Tap was no fluke on Reiner’s part. It was not beginner’s luck. This is a wonderful movie. Very confident. Very funny. And in John Cusack’s own words, “an absolute laugh-riot.” Walter “Gib” Gibson (Cusack) is a college freshman unlucky in love. He’s a young man who says much and means little. He has his eye on Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga), a studious, prim and proper girl in his English class, but he’s just not her type. On the rebound, Gib is invited to come down to California for Christmas by a friend, where he can get laid with no consequences, no guilt, and no strings attached. Its a Sure Thing! The only problem is that getting to UCLA is harder than he thought. Not only does he have to put up with bad weather, money troubles and sleazoid truck drivers, he’s sharing his journey with Alison. On her way to LA to meet up with her milquetoast boyfriend Jason, these opposites find themselves attracting each other. Their nightmarish road trip has brought them together, but Jason and The Sure Thing are still waiting at the end of the line. The Sure Thing is the film Planes, Trains & Automobiles might have been if John Hughes had made it as one of his teen movies. And although Hughes was the undisputed king of the teens during the 80s, Rob Reiner shows quite a flair for it as well. I think its sad that The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High are considered quintessential teen classics, while The Sure Thing is cruelly ignored. Reiner has clearly put a lot of thought into these two characters. Gib and Alison are not just sculpted from the textbook study of teen stereotypes. Much as he did with Spinal Tap, Reiner takes steps to make them real people. Gib and Alison start out as walking clichés and end up as human beings. The Sure Thing could seem very predictable. Right from the second Gib and Alison end up on the road together, we have a pretty good idea where this film is headed. But Reiner proves that excellent direction, expert casting and witty writing can overcome even the most familiar scenario. The film emerges as a considerable delight. One thing I especially enjoyed about TST is the way it knowingly plays into our expectations only to sidestep them wittily at the last minute. Reiner’s direction is pretty deft during Gib’s dream sequences. At one point we’re led to believe he’s scored with the girl of his dreams. But that’s all it is…just a dream! Especially when The Sure Thing turns into Alison. There are lots of neat little gems like this throughout the movie. They make the film a real treat. And as always, Reiner’s hand-picked an exceptional cast. In his first starring role, John Cusack rises to the occasion admirably as the glib Gib. Its a performance of sly ironies, something that Cusack would build out into a whole career. He plays Gib as someone who’s just looking to get laid, when the real Sure Thing (Alison) is standing right in front of him. And he knows it, but he’s trapped within teen insecurity to know what to do about it. John Cusack has always seemed an intelligent performer, and TST, along with High Fidelity and Being John Malkovich are the three finest films on his resume. Daphne Zuniga probably gets her best role here as the uptight Alison. She’s not really an actress that I pay much attention to, but she does quite well here. Watching her prissily share the screen with the sex-mad Cusack is always fun, especially with Gib melting down Alison’s icy exterior. There is genuine chemistry between them. They’re discovery of each other is ably conveyed, even when they become confused by the emotions that come out in the process. And Alison’s a girl of marvellous contradictions (“spontaneity has its time and place”). My favourite character of the film (and one we don’t see nearly enough of) is Gib and Alison’s free-spirited English teacher Professor Taub. Played by the late Viveca Lindfors, she is absolutely delightful! Her English classes are so interesting. And she’s such a charismatic and persuasive figure. She’s a character that really deserves her own movie. You could easily imagine her in a female equivalent of Dead Poets Society. And the way she provides the bridge between Gib and Alison at the end is a charming touch. There are lots of good actors throughout the movie. Look out for a young Tim Robbins as Gary Cooper (“but not the one that’s dead”), the car-pooler from Hell. Nicollette Sheridan as the aforementioned Sure Thing. Even Jason is allowed to develop some depth. Going from a bookish stiff to a freaked out young man when he learns Alison is in love with Gib. Despite falling within the trappings of the road trip genre, The Sure Thing, much like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, transcends its origins and becomes a sweet and appealing story. I knew Gib and Alison would wind up together. That was never in any doubt. But its the way Rob Reiner gets them together that makes this such a great movie. An underrated, addictive film that’s aged flawlessly, and shows Reiner’s chameleon ability to swap genres with total ease.
Country: United States
Duration: 95 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
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