I’m going back to the early stages of his career for day two of Cage week, to 1986’s Peggy Sue Got Married. This is one of those lower profile eighties era Francis Ford Coppola films that you rarely hear mentioned nowadays, along with Gardens of Stone or Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Cage would work with his uncle several times throughout the decade but this was the first time he was given such a major role by Coppola. His breakout role in Moonstruck wouldn’t come until the following year.
The film is a fantasy-comedy-drama which begins in 1985. Kathleen Turner plays Peggy Sue Bodell, a woman who’s recently separated from her husband Charlie (an aged-up Cage) who was also her high-school boyfriend. The film begins as she’s nervously preparing to go to her 25-year high school reunion. After arriving and meeting up with some of her old friends, a combination of Charlie showing up unexpectedly, and her being named the ‘reunion prom queen’ (I still don’t get the concept of this, no matter how many American films I see it in), she passes out.
Upon awakening she finds herself back in her last year of high school in 1960, where a now young Charlie is still her boyfriend. After going through the standard motions of shock, she realises that she’s gone back in time.
So yes, in many ways it sounds a bit like a female Back to the Future (which came out the previous year) but tonally feels quite different and due to Peggy Sue’s lack of a specific mission doesn’t suffer from comparisons (though it’s a lesser film to be sure). The wonderful idea behind Back to the Future, of what would happen if you met your parents when they were your age, also doesn’t apply here.
Peggy Sue Got Married has a very good central concept of its own though, who wouldn’t want to revisit their high school years armed with knowledge of the future and a chance to do things differently? The film tackles many ideas springing from its central conceit, such as Peggy Sue speaking with her previously dead relatives again and treating the bullied kid better (he goes on to become a millionaire). Naturally her main concern is what would happen to her life if she never marries Charlie. Yet, for all its exploration, it never feels like it truly gets the most out of its premise.
Like nearly all high school movies, the actors do not appear to be teenagers, indeed Turner was in her early thirties when filming and barely looks different in the eighties scenes to the sixties ones. It also has a couple of early, pre-fame appearances from Jim Carrey, Helen Hunt, and Joan Allen.
A lot of the film’s mood is concerned with basking in nostalgia, it’s not up to the level of the Coppola-produced American Graffiti in that department but again, feels different enough to avoid direct comparisons. There are a number of well-known pop songs features, and indeed Cage sings several times, including a group number in which he takes lead vocals. It’s a fairly charming performance from him, but Turner is the star here, and received an Oscar nomination for her efforts.