Gib waits for his ride back to the west coast.
Walter “Gib” Gibson (John Cusack) is a freshman at an Ivy League school, hoping to impress girls and get some romance into his life. But just like high school, Gib seems to strike out at every opportunity. In his English class he notices Allison (Daphne Zuniga) who is attractive, articulate, and totally disinterested in any of Gib’s advances. His cause is not advanced by the fact that their English teacher (Viveca Linfors) takes particular delight in reading his self-revealing essays aloud to the entire class. Allison does agree to see him strictly on a study basis but only after he delivers a classic piece of dialogue:
If I fail English, thats it. Kiss college goodbye. Gee, Dad will be pissed. I figure Ill have a six-month grace period and then I will have to get a job. Thats right, theyll start me at the drive-thru window and I gradually work my way from shakes to burgers, and then one day, my lucky break comes. The French fry guy dies and they offer me the job. But the day Im supposed to start, some men in a black Lincoln Continental tell me I can make a quick 300 dollars just for driving a van back from Mexico. When I get out of jail, Im 36 years old, living in a flophouse, with no job, no upward mobility, very few teeth. And then one day they find me, face down in the gutter, clutching a bottle of paint thinner, and why? Because you wouldnt help me in English!”
Gib continues to make advances during their study sessions, which continually backfire on him, making him look silly and stupid, but provide the audience with some hilarious failed pick-up lines. Allison will have nothing to do with him because she has an older boyfriend (Boyd Gaines) at home. Just when things seem hopeless for Gib, he receives a telephone call from Lance (Anthony Edwards with a full head of blond hair!) his best friend back home in California. Lance tells Gib that he has set up a “sure thing” for him over Christmas break, a beautiful girl (Nicolette Sheridan) who wants to meet him and have sex with him. All he has to do is make it back to California.
Gib plays some touch football on campus, hoping to impress some girls.
So Gib looks on the campus bulletin board and finds an offer for a ride to California sharing expenses with a couple, Gary Cooper and Mary Ann Webster (Tim Robbins and Lisa Jane Persky). Imagine Gib’s surprise when he gets into the back seat and discovers that his companion is to be Allison, who is also heading west to be with her boy friend. The ride turns out to be another disaster in the making, with Gary and Mary wanting to do sing-alongs and word games, while Gib and Allison constantly bicker and get into daring each other to do more and more outrageous things. Things come to a head when Gib dares Allison to moon passing by cars and she actually does it. But a policeman sees them, their car is pulled over, and Gary is given a ticket. Gib makes things worse by saying the car is overloaded with improperly secured luggage. At this point, both Gib and Alison are kicked out of the car, and left to fend for themselves somewhere in the middle of America. Gib, who has very little money, proposes that they hitchhike. Allison at first wants to go her separate way, but after she accepts a ride with man who tries to seduce her and has to be rescued by Gib (who was perceptive enough to stow away in the bed of the man’s pickup truck), they both realize that they need each other to get back to the west coast. The two start to be a little accepting of each other, and their relationship starts to develop, sometimes hot, sometimes cold. There are many more experiences and adventures, as the two complete their journey to Los Angeles and go to their romantic assignations. The remainder of the story line deals with how Both Gib and Allison deal with the “sure things” in their lives.
Gib eats some food in the dormitory hall.
The Sure Thing was Rob Reiner’s second feature film, after This Is Spinal Tap. Reiner keeps the film well paced and really packs a lot into its 90 minute length. Reiner’s sure-handed direction gives you not only an accurate portrait of college life, but also life in middle America. While the material is really nothing new, one of the things that make this film work is the well-written script, which is full of great lines, and little vignettes along the way with incidental characters that add a humorous dimension of reality to the experience. The film’s setup leads you to believe that it could be quite raunchy, but instead you discover that it is a true romance, balancing its mixture of lust and love with characterizations that have some depth and perception. Especially noteworthy the is performance of John Cusack, who successfully combines witty dialogue, a persistent “over-the-top” personality, and a charming innocence in his portrayal of the continually frustrated college freshman Walter Gibson. The Sure Thing was his first major lead role, and in it Cusack demonstrates his ability to carry an entire film. It takes you a little time to warm up to Daphne Zuniga’s characterization of the aloof Allison, but in the long run that is part of her charm. Some of the breakthrough moments in the film are when Allison finally starts to loosen up, and you begin to see what her real attrraction as a person is. The film is well cast with some great comedy acting work by Anthony Edwards as Gib’s best friend Lance, Viveca Linfors as the English professor who tells her students that you have to experience life to be able to write about it, George Memmoli and Sunshine Parker as two guys Gib meets in a bar, and Larry Hankin as a truck driver who tells Gib when he hears about the sure thing, “You pay for the traffic tickets, and I’ll get you in the saddle.” The Sure Thing could have been just another teen sex flick, but instead ends up being one of the best films in its genre, with nuances that you will appreciate even more after several viewings.
Gib hits on a girl at a party, with his usual absurd pickup lines.
Gib hangs out with a disinterested Allison in the library.
John Cusack in his role as Walter Gibson wears black high top chucks throughout The Sure Thing. They fit right in with his active and individualistic personality. The best scenes showing them are when Gib is studying with Allison in the library and in her dorm room.
Gib tries to be indifferent while Allison talks on the telephone to her boy friend.
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