"Give this one some time to warm up. Patience is rewarded with John Sayles."
In New Jersey in 1966, a high school girl called Jill (Rosanna Arquette) finds herself a little smitten by a tall, dark, good looking guy known only as The Sheik (Vincent Spano). He’s a bit of a handful, as well as a thief with a fast car and a violent streak, but Jill finds herself drawn to the outspoken troublemaker. Their secretive relationship takes a turn for the worst when The Sheik is thrown out of school, with Jill soon heading off to college. But that’s where this film comes into it’s own, moving from two dimensional high school angst to a seriously dramatic and sad look at how those that succeed as a child sometimes never want to let go of that childhood.Arquette, still a little green under the gills when this flick was shot in 1982, doesn’t exactly light up the screen. Neither does Spano, despite being dubbed on of the “12 most promising young actors of 1983”. Scenes where the two fight with each other aren’t poignant, they’re just loud, and with the exception of when Arquette is allowed to take her character to an extreme (such as when drunk or stoned) she seems unable to emote.
But the true star of this show is director John Sayles, a prolific independent filmmaker who generally churns out a mainstream studio flick (The Howling, Eight Men Out, Piranha) once in a while in order to finance the two or three subsequent indie films that he ‘really’ wants to make but knows won’t make a profit (Limbo, Men With Guns, Matewan). It’s really Sayles’ influence that brings the best out of this film and these actors. For the first hour, you wouldn’t be rubbished for turning the thing off, being as it comes across like a period piece on high school in the 60’s, but the last hour of this thing is among the finer works put out by anyone involved. As Sheik’s love of the Sinatra lifestyle is slowly exposed as more and more out of date, he moves from being too cool for school to a sad, shallow shell of a man, and Arquette rides that rail until the very end as she turns on him in a most nasty way.Easy to dismiss, despite a kicking soundtrack, calling this film disappointing is the easy option. Watching and waiting and finding the treasure in amongst the cliché is the real test of the viewer. I wouldn’t suggest going out and buying it, but if it’s playing on TV, invest ninety minutes in the ride.