The Sure Thing

Dir: Rob Reiner
1984
Our local library has something like 200 DVDs,
but they are so popular only 5 are on the shelf at any given time (where else but Netflix can you get a deal like free rental, 7-day-loan?). It’s become a bit of filmgoer zen when approaching the shelf. I’ll usually find one film a week to watch from here, but I’ll have no idea what. Metropolis was last week’s “choice”. This week it was Rob Reiner’s romantic comedy “The Sure Thing,” which I had never seen.
A pleasant, none-too-cynical mix of “opposites attract” with a road movie, the film takes you exactly where you want to go–the eventual coupling of wild-boy John Cusack and conservative Alison (Daphne Zuniga)–but throws in every obstacle it can. A few surprising things, based on what the teen romantic comedy has become. Zuniga’s character is not the ugly duckling, the nerdy girl who suddenly looks like a million bucks when she takes off her glasses. She stays pretty much the same fashionwise throughout–it’s her character, revealed through her face, that changes. Nobody’s character traits are revealed to arise from parental issues. Refreshingly, we don’t hear much about either of their parents, except that Alison’s dad has left her with a credit card (to be discovered in one fortuitous scene). Plus the romantic tension never resolves itself until after the two return to the East Coast. How many road films feature the characters returning home?
John Cusack, in the film that made him a star, shows ever here the great charisma and ease in performing that marks all his early films. Daphne Zuniga, who went on to star in Spaceballs and four seasons of Melrose Place) gets short shrift in the DVD extras. She gets interviewed, but nobody else seems to talk about her when reminiscing about the film. The blonde who plays “The Sure Thing” (Nicolette Sheridan) gets name checked more.
Teen films are so formulaic now (although the great resurgence in them–the Freddie Prinze Jr. years–seems to have passed) that The Sure Thing, despite having a bikini-wearing fantasy woman, feels old-fashioned and “classic.”
But I also think that people who love this film really are in love with who they were when they saw it. Unlike “Say Anything”, I didn’t find the script to be that quotable. There’s no scene comparable to SA’s “Gas ‘n’ Sip”, or a monolog as bizarre as Lloyd Dobler’s career statement.
Local note–at one point they drive over a bridge that I recognized as the one on the north side of the 154–descending from Camino Cielo down to the Cachuma Lake region. The little winding path underneath it (visible on the DVD) goes to Cold Springs Tavern (we were just there last week). It’s a great bridge, especially seen from that road below. I believe at this point the characters were supposed to be in the Midwest.

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