Review: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986, Coppola)


peggysue-reunion

IMDB Summary: Peggy Sue faints at a Highschool reunion. When she wakes up she finds herself in her own past, just before she finished school.

As time flies idly by, there comes a point where you wish you could go back and do things differently, Hell, I’m only 25 and I already feel that way. Time-travel tales like Peggy Sue Got Married fall into the fanciful category, not that lofty barrage of very serious mythology heavy sci-fi. It fills its frames with a wistful nostalgia. It hooks you with its relatable conceit.

There’s a lot to admire here, like Kathleen Turner’s game performance and the beautiful photography by Jordan Cronenweth. There’s an anticipatory glee that builds up in the excellent first act as to how the character we see will translate and interact in the past. And what to say about Nic Cage’s performance, that nasally concoction of sincerity, goofiness and an unforgettable blonde tuft. His characterization of Charlie is a huge risk; it changes the character completely from what’s on the page and demands a higher toll from Turner and the viewer when the more serious scenes play out. Somehow it works even though it’s one of the weirdest performances I’ve ever seen. And for those that don’t think it works, an opinion I completely understand, at the very least you can’t look away from it. His “You mean…my wang?” sits firmly in the all-time great line-readings. And Joan Allen is cute as a button, isn’t she?

What does it say though that Peggy Sue doesn’t really grow or change but only gains some lived-in perspective? Believe it or not, I like that it turns the idea of ‘if I knew then what I know now’ on its head, reminding us that those decisions were made once for a reason. Peggy tries but gets sucked back into the feeling of ‘now’. Something I find weird is that it suggests that her only options in life were the boys at her school. And while Peggy not wanting to lose her kids is completely reasonable, that should have factored into the film’s fabric more than it does. It presents her decision from a solely romantic standpoint, which is reductive to what she’s actually feeling.

The ‘happy ending’ disappointed me. Like, a lot. OK, fine. She and Charlie once had something legitimate. Fragments probably still exist. It is important to recognize what was once there to begin with instead of turning it all into regret; like I said, Peggy gains perspective. It’s also important to know when to call it quits, no? Time passes and people change. Just because it felt right to be with someone at one point in your life, doesn’t mean it has to be eternal as an unbreakable rule and it also doesn’t mean it was a bad decision at the time. For the screenwriters, apparently it’s one or the other; there is no middle. Again: reductive. And that’s how the film treats their relationship. So she chose to be with Charlie again. Sure; it allows her children to still exist. But now that everything remained the same, she actively makes the choice to continue a broken marriage when divorce would have, yes been hard, but liberated her for the next surely earned phase of her life? I’m supposed to believe that Charlie and Peggy will slowly work through their problems? And additionally, that Peggy is meant to spend her whole life with him?

Even with my problems with the ending, my biggest issue is the screenplay wasting so much time on strands that don’t matter in an effort to make all the characters seem relevant. I speak particularly of Michael Fitzsimmons, Richard Norvik and the grandparents. A character like the Fitzsimmons one is important, but why did he have to be such a poorly written, uninteresting dolt? Their scenes read as flat and dull even with Turner’s efforts. Peggy’s interactions with Richard Norvik ponder the film’s high concept way too much (let it alone!) and the grandparents are such a third act thud it almost derails the whole picture.

My favorite scenes are the ones between Peggy and Charlie. What I absolutely love about these scenes is that the two characters are having two separate conversations, with neither fully comprehending the other. The basement scene is a highlight and moved me way more than I expected it too. Actually a lot of this film moved me more than I expected it to even taking its damaging faults into consideration.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986, Coppola)

    1. I really wanted to love it and there’s a lot I did love about it, but I had some pretty big issues. Still, lots of fun and something I could see myself watching again. Thanks for commenting!

  1. I remember Peggy Sue “inventing” pantyhose or something and thinking damn, she could have invented tons more things than that, with what she knew. I also recall being sad when she got to visit her grandparents. And Nick Cage–mercy, he’s a different breed of cat, whether he’s a valley boy or Charlie or a vampire.

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