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Peggy Sue Got Married

Posted by martinteller on January 5, 2014

Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) is feeling a little overwhelmed at her 25th high school reunion.  Her marriage to her high school sweetheart Charlie (Nicolas Cage) is dissolving in the wake of one of his affairs, making the interactions with former classmates awkward.  The fact that she’s the only one who chose to wear a vintage dress isn’t helping.  As she is elected queen of the event, she swoons… and wakes up as a teenager again in 1960, but with all the knowledge she has of the present day.  Can she repair the relationship with Charlie from the beginning, or she should pursue the brooding and mysterious Michael Fitzsimmons (Kevin J. O’Connor)?

This is a disarming little movie.  One of the films Francis Ford Coppola made in the wake of the One from the Heart disaster, it seems to have just enough mainstream appeal to turn a profit, but seems to stray from conventionality in both understated and overt ways.  For one thing, there is no central crisis driving the film.  Peggy Sue isn’t panicking about her situation (thankfully, the film allows her to accept it fairly easily, sparing us a tedious sequence of denial) and doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to find her way back.  While she is trying to navigate her adolescent life and seeing how it fits into what she knows of the future, she’s not on a mission to rectify any particular issue.  And what a wonderful fantasy to be able to go back to high school with adult knowledge (who wouldn’t love to do that?) but there isn’t a lot of fuss made over it.  There are moments where she exploits the situation but they’re small moments.  Mostly the film just casually takes us along with her on a journey of nostalgia and self-discovery.  It’s almost a movie more notable for what it doesn’t do than what it does (another example: it spares us a lot of tiresome “fish out of water” gags, like the “Pepsi Free” bit in Back to the Future).

And we can’t overlook Cage.  Don’t get me wrong, Turner is really wonderful in the lead, and she understands the sentimental nuances of the role.  But Nic Cage is such a delightful oddball that he steals every second he’s onscreen.  He reminds me of legendary (and notoriously difficult) character actor Tim Carey, willing to go the extra mile to ham it up and make the oddest choices.  Just look at Cage’s weirdo fingers when he’s sneaking into Peggy Sue’s house.  Or the bizarro squeaky voice he employs.  You can’t really call him a genius, but he sure is goddamn interesting to watch.

There’s a lot of wonderful stuff going on.  John Barry’s romantic score is just lovely… and of course there’s a fine selection of golden oldies on the soundtrack.  The first shot and last shot are beautifully matched, each a transition from a mirrored image to the real world, suggesting an “Alice Through the Looking Glass” adventure.  The cinematography is lush and bright, with a color scheme that often dazzles.  And it’s just such a sweet, charming, funny movie that neither takes its subject matter too seriously nor too lightly.  It’s a weird film but in such an easy-going way, like the movie is totally content to do its own thing, willing to be a bit messy and unfocused the way life often is.  This may be nonsense, but by the end it felt like the Coen Brothers doing Nicholas Ray (or vice versa, I dunno).  I’ll let you know when I figure out what that means.

I haven’t seen a whole lot by Coppola, but I’d rank this right under Apocalypse Now and the first two Godfather movies.  It’s a real original, with some tender comedy and a refreshing take on nostalgia.  Rating: Very Good (87)


5 Responses to “Peggy Sue Got Married”

  1. JamDenTel said

    If you’ve never seen ONE FROM THE HEART, give it a shot sometime (I know you’ve got a lot of other movies that come first, I’m just saying). I think it’s a pretty underrated film myself. Thin, but I find the stylization quite interesting.

  2. […] new discovery: Shonen and Peggy Sue Got Married (tie) Worst new discovery: Sliding […]

  3. Anonymous said

    Since you seem to consider this your 4th favorite Coppola, I was wondering what your thoughts were on The Conversation.

    • I think The Conversation is really good, but I feel the “reveal” is a cheat. Coppola himself pretty much admitted it was a cheat on the DVD commentary. I shouldn’t let a thing like that bother me, it does. But it’s been 15 years since I last saw it, maybe I’d be more forgiving (or see it in a different light) now.

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