A Movie A Day: THE SURE THING (1985) Excuse me, won’t you? I have to go kick the shit out of someone.
Published at: July 20, 2008, 3:14 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Tim Robbins bridges us from yesterday’s CADILLAC MAN to today’s 1985 romantic dramedy THE SURE THING.
It’s movies like this that make me love this column. The DVD art on this looked boring. The movie doesn’t have much of a reputation. But this film sits comfortably on the shelf next to the sub-sub comedy category of ‘80s John Cusack comedies.
I love ‘80s Cusack. SAY ANYTHING, ONE CRAZY SUMMER and (of course) BETTER OFF DEAD stand out to me… yeah, I even love ONE CRAZY SUMMER… If it was just cute Demi Moore, John Cusack and the insanely fake, yet still terrifying rabid dolphin. He doesn’t disappoint here.
In fact, the film opens with a great ‘80s John Cusack monologue, when he’s trying to get into a girl’s pants at a party, the last shindig before everyone goes their separate ways to colleges near and far, north, south, east and west. I would have used the final line from that in the subhead if it wasn’t so damn long. In the end he promises her a sexual experience so strong that it’d change her political orientation.
In fact, Cusack is so much in his prime here that his presence alone made me dig the flick. He has another scene where he rescues his main romantic interest, Alison (Daphne Zuniga), from a touchy-feely truck driver by pretending to be insane that I was literally laughing for 3 minutes straight. I had to pause the movie.
Butlike I said, I’m a sucker for ‘80s John Cusack.
Basically you have Cusack off East at an Ivy League school while his high school best buddy (played by Anthony Edwards in a completely different capacity from his other well known ‘80s college comedy, REVENGE OF THE NERDS) is in Southern California. Cusack is having a hard time at it, striking out with the ladies, especially Zuniga, who sits next to him in his English class.
She’s his opposite. She’s completely organized, she abstains from all vices, is a bookworm, but doesn’t have a voice. She’s technically profiscient, but there’s no soul. She doesn’t live life, she plans life. Cusack is her exact opposite, hence the attraction.
But he blows his first date with her and in a depressed state he calls Edwards in California, who tells him he needs to come out and spend the Christmas holiday out there because he has a “Sure Thing” lined up for him. Meaning a hot, horny girl that is a guaranteed sexual monster without any strings. Nicollette Sheridan plays the Sure Thing briefly at the end and in many photo-shoot-like dream sequences.
The only problem Cusack has is getting to her.
Of course, Zuniga has an uptight boyfriend in Southern California, so she’s headed west, too and they find themselves in the same ride-share, with the creepily cheerful Cooper couple, led by Tim Robbins (“I’m Gary Cooper, but not the Gary Cooper that’s dead.”) in another great comic performance.
From here on out, it’s about as predictable as you can get with Romantic Comedies. Opposites attract, bad fortune befalls them at every turn and they fall in love on the way to their other social partners.
I quite liked Zuniga in this role. I must confess I knew her almost exclusively as Princess Vespa (in fact she has a scene with Cusack when he asks her what she wanted to be as a kid and she said, “A princess.” I said out loud to nobody… except maybe my cat… “Great. That’s just what we need. A Druish Princess.”), but she plays the role with more than one dimension and she chooses to play down her looks for most of the movie. Maybe that one wasn’t her choice, but she embraces it is what I’m saying. What makes her attractive in this movie is that she’s a real girl, not an It Girl Of The Moment.
Rob Reiner directed this film in-between SPINAL TAP and STAND BY ME (which he followed with PRINCESS BRIDE, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and MISERY). What a great era for Reiner and while I would count this film as the lesser of the three, I’m more than a little surprised that it isn’t at least as well known.
Final thoughts: The film has an undeniable charm, thanks in large part to the great leading performances from Cusack and Zuniga as well as the sharp writing by Steve Bloom and Jonathan Roberts. Rob Reiner was in his prime during this time period as well. All of his movies have a heart and soul here, which isn’t something I can say about his current run. The movie is unquestionably ‘80s (look at the hot neon pink “handwriting style” opening credits if you don’t believe me), but that just adds to its charm. At least it did for me.