Baby It's You (film)

Baby It's You is a 1983 American romantic comedy film written and directed by John Sayles.[3] It stars Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano.[4]

Baby It's You
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Sayles
Produced byGriffin Dunne
Amy Robinson
Screenplay byJohn Sayles
Story byAmy Robinson
Music byTodd Kasow
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited bySonya Polonsky
Double Play
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 4, 1983 (1983-03-04) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,867,792[2]


The film, set in 1966 New Jersey, is about a romance between an upper-middle-class Jewish girl named Jill Rosen (Arquette), who is bound for Sarah Lawrence College, and a blue-collar Italian boy nicknamed the Sheik (Spano), who aspires to follow in Frank Sinatra's footsteps.

The movie follows their high school experiences during their romance: Jill's success in high school acting productions, Jill's rebuffing of Sheik's sexual advances, Sheik's one-night stand with a sexually active friend of Jill's and a subsequent suicide attempt by that friend.

Eventually, Sheik is expelled from school, and after an attempted robbery and subsequent pursuit by local police, Sheik goes to Miami, Florida, while Jill subsequently leaves for her first year at Sarah Lawrence in the fall of 1967. At one point in her first year, Jill visits Sheik in Florida during spring break, and although she sees clearly how little he has going for him (he has found work in a nightclub washing dishes and, on weekends, lipsynching to Frank Sinatra recordings), she has sex with him. In the moments before they undress, their conversation turns to his odd nickname, which he had not explained to Jill when they dated in high school. "Sheik" is a brand of condoms, he explains--"like Trojans."

Some time after Jill returns to college, Sheik arrives at work to find that he has been unceremoniously replaced by a real singer, albeit one with no great talent. This humiliation makes Sheik self-aware of his almost non-existent opportunities for career success in any endeavor, and in response, he steals a car and makes the long drive from Miami to New York, propelled by the romantic notion of reuniting with Jill.

Jill's college experience has not been easy or happy: she has not met with the acting or social success she had in high school. Yet, the act of consummating her desire for Sheik has led her to realize that she does not love him, for having had sex with him has moved her past the point of romantic and sexual wonder, and left her seeing that they inhabit different social worlds. When Sheik arrives at Sarah Lawrence and does not find Jill, he violently trashes her room and waits for her return. When she does and he declares his love for her, she tells him that she does not love him. Sheik briefly resists her response and then, in a moment of quiet dignity, accepts it. Jill then reaches out to Sheik, and asks him as a favor—for them both, in a sense—if he will take her to a college dance, for which she has otherwise been unable to find a date. The movie ends with this dance, and this final scene also registers the quick change of pace in popular culture in the mid-1960s. In the midst of the dance, either Jill or Sheik (the film does not identify which one) requests that the band, incongruously, perform "Strangers in the Night", the Sinatra hit that had been a key part of their high school romance. The film finishes with them looking into each other's eyes and slow-dancing.



This was Sayles' first film for a major Hollywood studio. He based the screenplay on an autobiographical story by Amy Robinson. The film was co-produced by Robinson and Griffin Dunne and was dedicated to Dunne's sister, actress Dominique Dunne, who was murdered around the time of the film's production.[5]

Rosanna Arquette reflected on the role shortly after the film's theatrical release: "I went to high school for a while, but my experiences were shitty. Somebody asked me how I prepared for that role. I put on those knee socks and that skirt and - I don't know. I just felt her."[6]

Home media

In July 2008, Baby It's You was released on DVD.


Critical response

Film critic Janet Maslin discussed the music in the film and wrote, "Music is a major part of Baby, It's You, as the title may indicate. The score consists of rock songs that more or less correspond to the time, although Sheik's entrances are accompanied by Bruce Springsteen songs; these may be anachronistic, but they suit Sheik to a T. These touches, as well as the generally impeccable period details and the evocative cinematography by Michael Ballhaus (who shot many of R.W. Fassbinder's later films), suggest that Baby, It's You was a labor of love for everyone involved."[7] In a joint review of Baby It's You and another John Sayles film, Lianna, Rolling Stone's Michael Sragow commented that Sayles has his strengths but is considerably overrated, and compared both films unfavorably to his earlier Return of the Secaucus 7. He elaborated that Baby It's You is too ideologically single-minded and suffers from oversights in its storytelling. Specifically, "it may take twenty minutes for an audience to realize that [the Sheik] actually attends high school and isn't a dropout hanging around."[8]

Critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "It was for indie filmmaker Sayles his first film to be made with financial backing by a major studio (Doubleday backed it and Paramount bought it), but he swore it would be his last as he was pissed that he lost final editing cut. For Sayles this is lighter fare than what he usually tackles, but he fights through all the teenage clichés to give his own spin on this romance, the significance of social-class differences, how it is to finally grow up by listening to your heart and to change with the times."[9]




  1. Gerry Molyneaux, "John Sayles, Renaissance Books, 2000 p 115
  2. Baby It's You at Box Office Mojo
  3. Baby It's You on IMDb.
  4. Variety film review; March 9, 1983.
  5. Chase, Chris (April 8, 1983). "At the Movies; Jan Troell calm about Oscar bid". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  6. Caldwell, Carol (June 9, 1983). "Baby, It's Her". Rolling Stone (397): 17, 19.
  7. Maslin, Janet. The New York Times, film review, March 25, 1983. Last accessed: February 28, 2008.
  8. Sragow, Michael (June 9, 1983). "Lianna and Baby It's You". Rolling Stone (397): 52.
  9. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, January 10, 2007 Last accessed: February 28,208.
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