she’s on the verge of getting a divorce, her marriage suddenly parasitic.
She’s at a crossroads. Although she's just a couple years into her 40s, she feels as if she’s wasted most of her life – and that there isn’t much to look forward to. If only she could go back in time and not get married so young. If only she’d grabbed hold of the opportunities that might’ve allowed her to do what she wanted in her youth.
As the movie in which she is the heroine, Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), opens, she is getting ready for her 25-year high school reunion. Anxiety’s pronounced; everyone knows she got knocked up and then married her hubby almost as soon as graduation commenced. As such she dreads how often she’s going to have to tell old acquaintances that she’s in the midst of a separation. But her daughter (a young Helen Hunt), who will be her date for the night, is encouraging. Dad’s probably going to make an appearance, so why shouldn’t Mom?
Arriving in a blowy prom dress she thought’d be fitting while getting ready, Peggy Sue feels awkward, her every qualm about going to the reunion coming true. She has to roll out the “actually, Charlie and I are getting a divorce” line time and time again. She feels silly in her gigantic gown. She has to chat with people she hasn’t thought about, and perhaps hasn’t wanted to think about, for far longer than she’d like. She will, though, unhesitantly admit that it’s nice to catch up with old friends like Carol (Catherine Hicks) and Maddy (Joan Allen). That it’s fun reminiscing. But she feels a tinge of melancholia, especially when thinking about what might have been.
Later in the night, it is announced that Peggy Sue’s classmates have voted for a reunion king and queen. The king is Richard (Barry Miller), the class’s arch geek who’s since turned into a wealthy businessman. The queen is Peggy Sue. When her name’s announced, she finds herself exasperated but nevertheless honored by the win.
But once she sets foot on the stage, she faints, maybe because the stage fright’s so marked or because she has an affinity for theatrics. Upon waking up, though, she doesn't find herself surrounded by a group of concerned classmates like we'd expect. Instead, the year is 1960, and she’s 18 again. She might as well pinch herself. Her desire to redo her life has apparently become a reality.
Such is something I’m sure many of us have wanted for ourselves. The culture in which we live has proven to be dependably obsessed with the past, whether that sentiment be exemplified by the never-ending nostalgia for certain decades (fashions and entertainment values from the 1980s and ‘90s are more widespread than ever) or by the simple, universal truth that we often wish we could change things we’ve said and done.
Peggy Sue Got Married encompasses all this; both ‘50s and ‘80s sentimentalizing are here, and so is the formerly mentioned universality. The movie is frequently amusing because of its indulging in these ideas, pretty successfully turning decade romanticizing on its back (this is mostly done through how much Cage’s character is an even more cartoonish version of 1988's Hairspray’s Corny Collins). It additionally comes to terms with the fact that we shouldn’t be so quick to want to change our pasts: Some attributes of the present are terrific in themselves, after all. So why would we want to prevent them from happening?
Yet the movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, never quite works. It cannot decide if it wants to be a quasi-screwball comedy à la Groundhog Day (1993) or a straightforward dramedy like something akin to a more dramatic rendition of a John Hughes movie. Some of this has to do with the way the writing never quite sticks with a specific tone. And some of it has to do with the casting: Turner is 32 and Cage is 22, with their co-stars ranging from their early 20s to their late 30s.
As an effect is the movie something of a likable ramble, an execution of an idea that kind of works but nonetheless never quite lifts off because we’re not so sure how to respond to it. Are we watching a wistful comedy-drama, or a straight-up farce? How much should we be laughing, and how much should we be responding to scenes as if they were “moving,” or “touching”?
Responding to these uncertainties is not such an easy task. But we’re never bored, and Turner is so committed to the material that we’re eager to stick with her even if we aren’t so sure of the movie supporting her. I’ll call Peggy Sue Got Married a mess for now. But since it's such an amiable mess, it’s one I’m okay with. B-
Francis Ford Coppola
1 Hr., 43 Mins.
Peggy Sue Got Married January 20, 2018
eggy Sue Bodell (Kathleen Turner) wishes she could have a do-over. On the surface, it looks as though she has it all: she lives in a beautiful home with the curb appeal HGTV fetishistically seeks; a couple kids who look like guest stars in a Charles in Charge (1984-’90) episode; a handsome, successful husband (Nicolas Cage) most women in her town’d proudly tell her they wish they had for themselves.
But the truth is that a lovely house isn’t enough to cover up her emptiness. That her kids are growing older and she fears what an empty nest will bring. That