Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

Viewed June 8th

 

When emotionally-frustrated Peggy Sue faints at her twenty-fifth high school reunion and miraculously wakes up back in high school in the early 1960s, she realizes that her decision to get married actually was the right one. 

At the time Peggy Sue Got Married was released, it was, to a great degree, viewed as either a subpar Back to the Future rip-off, or as a willfully oddball entry into mainstream fluff for director Francis Ford Coppola. It had its supporters, including Roger Ebert, but was ultimately weighed down by the context of its own moment in history. However, just as Peggy Sue is able to revisit herself twenty-five years in the past with nostalgia and yearning, so too can we revisit Peggy Sue Got Married thirty-one years after its initial release. Things are different now. There's the filmmaking itself. It feels so easy-going and lightly funny. The way it touches the heartstrings without making a big deal about anything. It's adult but care-free. And it was a wide-release. I can't imagine something like this being shown in the cineplexes today. And then there's the cast. They're so young. Jim Carrey, Kathleen Turner, Joan Allen, even Sophia Coppola. And, of course, Nicholas Cage. This was a year before Cage's career took off with Moonlight and it seems like he's got the whole world in front of him. He delivers a wild, touching, perfectly-Nicholas Cage performance that never feels outside of the overall goals of the filmmaking. The film is a love story about how missed opportunities haunt us like ghosts, but maybe they were missed for a reason. It's about how Peggy Sue actually should have stayed with Cage's character Charlie, despite the problems they encounter in the future. In order for this to work, when we see Peggy Sue and Charlie, we have to want them to be together bad enough for her to still choose him, despite everything. And in order for that to work, you need great performances that convey it all in a flash. Kathleen Turner, who played Peggy Sue, and Nicholas Cage delivered then and, looking back, deliver even stronger today.