Published Mar 24, 2015Amidst the array of supplemental materials included with the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the cult classic, The Sure Thing, the producers point out that the story was conceived by a couple of undergrads with no history of screenwriting. At the time, screwball comedies about College-age sexual shenanigans with a bevy of T&A were all the rage; Steve Bloom and Jonathan Roberts had a basic shell of an idea, wherein the reluctant Ivy League Gib Gibson (John Cusack) was to travel cross-country to California, where his best friend Lance (Anthony Edwards) had a "sure thing" (Nicolette Sheridan) lined up for his sexual use. When Embassy Pictures picked up the film — something they originally didn't intend to do — they toyed with the idea a bit and brought on Rob Reiner, who was hot off This is Spinal Tap, to direct.
Reiner's approach, as he notes in the supplemental interviews, was less hornball and more wholesome. His interest was in the characters and Gib's hesitant romantic awakening when confronted with the exceedingly uptight and academic Alison (Daphne Zuniga). In structure, it was like a modernist version of It Happened One Night, pairing up the archetypal ice princess with a cocky, irresponsible dog so they can both learn a little bit from each other, and though this structure ultimately became a romantic comedy cliché, it wasn't common for teen movies to have so much morality and heart in the early '80s, which is, in part, why The Sure Thing was as successful as it was.
The other reason why this road trip movie worked was the pairing of two actors that had a natural chemistry and a full grasp on their respective characters. Once the pair are unknowingly forced to carpool while making their trek across the country — Alison to visit her law student boyfriend and Gib to score in California — their bickering dynamic and coy flirtations make for effective feel-good escapism. Even though these two would never complement each other so impeccably in real-life — Alison learns to let loose by shotgunning beer and flashing cars on the highway while Gib learns that there's more to coupling than hormonal urge — the well-intentioned cuteness of it all is still moderately heartwarming.
What helped make this movie stick in the minds of viewers at the time was its core thematic assertion: both Alison and Gib went off to College with a certain vision and ideal in their head only to learn, through a road trip "journey" format, that change is unpredictable. It's a coming-of-age, nostalgic notion that virtually everyone can identify with.
Sure, it's all a tad cheesy, being made for teenagers and being fairly dated aesthetically and stylistically (there's a reason the series finale of The Wonder Years ripped off the plot verbatim), but it's also quite harmless. Yes, it reiterates stereotypical notions of gender performance, but considering that it was 1985 and there was only one gratuitous sequence of Sheridan putting on lotion in a bikini, The Sure Thing was borderline feminist empowerment.
The supplements on the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray are extensive, discussing casting, the script and the wardrobe. Fortunately, they include all of the main actors and key figures of the production, making it a comprehensive look at a film that surely holds a special place to middle-aged traditionalists throughout North America.