Thursday, July 5, 2012

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

Seen: On my tv, streamed from netflix instant.

After being honored at her high school reunion, Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) faints on stage and finds herself transported back in time to her teenage years. Questioning what is real and imagined, she nevertheless sees it as an opportunity to make some new memories and also bone a dude she always wanted to bone. She's only ever been with her high school boyfriend, Charlie (Nicolas Cage), whom she married shortly after graduating, but his infidelity in their later years has her questioning her life's decisions. If waking up as a teenager means she can completely change her future, it would also mean she loses her kids and any happiness she did have with Charlie.

Peggy Sue Got Married is an example of a movie with a lot of good ideas but also a lot of problems. It's got a strong premise, as a middle-aged woman regrets her younger self's choices and takes advantage of getting a second chance through inexplicable time travel. She tries to utilize her knowledge of the future, offering invention ideas to a sciencey friend and trying to warn Charlie that his planned singing career won't take off. She spends time with Michael Fitzsimmons, a beat poet-type student who had always been her "what-if". Turns out he's a good lay but not really relationship material. Too much of a hippie. But now she knows, and in a sense is free to reconsider her future with Charlie. Seeing him as a teenager again, before he fucked up their marriage, reminds her why she loves him, and she wonders if they can still be together even after she's lost faith in him.

The thing is, there are a lot of weird subplots going on in this film and none of them are given enough focus to drive the narrative forward. One moment Peggy Sue is pining over Michael Fitzsimmons, the next she's convincing her friend Richard that tennis shoes will be a big deal in the future. One night she's going on a date with Charlie, the next she's trying out weird secret old man society tactics to travel back to her own time. I read about some of the cut sequences that involve Peggy using her knowledge to try to change things more, and to try to improve her own future with inventions and such. These plots would have been more interesting to me than the romantic thread that winds throughout, since I didn't care about the Michael Fitzsimmons thing and it seemed a cop-out to have her still wind up with Charlie (though I knew that's how it would end because she kept mentioning how she missed her kids).

Its script is scattered, obviously, but luckily I like Kathleen Turner enough for her to make the film worth watching. And Nic Cage has got this crazy, nasally voice thing that is strange enough to be utterly captivating. Plus his hair! There are a lot of cool smaller appearances from people who became more famous later, like Jim Carrey, Catherine Hicks, Joan Allen, and Helen Hunt. And Sofia Coppola gets a scene, and damn I always forget that she used to be a shitty child actress in her dad's films, poor thing. Not her calling, clearly.

Basically this movie is ok. I just wish it had been more about Peggy Sue changing her future instead of making it almost the same as it was. But I guess that would take the romance out of it, god forbid.


Pair This Movie With: I think Back to the Future makes the most sense, for more time travel/50s nostalgia from the 1980s.

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