Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)


Kathleen Turner stars as a divorcee-to-be who passes out at her twenty-five-year high school reunion. When she wakes up, she’s transported back to 1960 in the body of her teenaged self. Unsure how she got there or if she’ll ever get back, she takes the opportunity to live her life differently while cherishing the things she took for granted. But will she still marry her high school sweetheart?

Peggy Sue Got Married may seem a pedestrian choice of material for ambitious director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), but it’s refreshing to see the director take several steps back and tell a simple, emotional story. While the film may sound like Back to the Future in concept, it’s just a variation on a theme. Peggy Sue is more of a character study, wistful and bittersweet. Turner does a fantastic job playing a forty-two year old in an eighteen-year old’s world, especially when she tries to break it off with her boyfriend — the idealistic dreamer she’s married once before, and vows not to marry again. Nicolas Cage plays the boyfriend and husband, and if there’s one off-note in the movie, it’s his peculiarly nasal performance. It’s a little too quirky for my taste. (Cage, incidentally, is Coppola’s nephew. Daughter Sophia also appears as Peggy Sue’s little sister.)

The film unfolds predictably, but it has a lot of heart. The nostalgia component is compelling, too — especially when Turner visits Cage in a record shop, and more poignantly when she visits grandparents long deceased. While the overall tone is a somber one, beautifully captured in John Barry’s slow lullaby music, the script also has a healthy sense of humor to keep things from getting too heavy. My favorite light moment is when Peggy Sue’s mother warns her to stay away from penises.

Jordan Cronenweth’s (Blade Runner) cinematography is another highlight. And while the supporting roles aren’t especially meaty, they’re filled with great talents like Helen Hunt, Joan Allen, Jim Carrey, and Kevin J. O’Connor. Maureen O’Sullivan (Tarzan the Ape Man) makes a welcome appearance as Peggy Sue’s grandmother and John Carradine has a cameo as well.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress (Kathleen Turner), Cinematography, Costume Design

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