Time travel may not have to be fast-paced adventures, but they can stand as romantic and nostalgic stories as this forgotten 1986 movie, Peggy Sue Got Married.
As per the title, the protagonist is over-40-year-old Peggy Sue Bodell, a woman in marital crisis who attends her old high school for a reunion.
That place filled with memories and old acquaintances makes her uncomfortable. Still, it sparks a strange passion, though she is unhappy to reunite with her former husband, Charlie Bodell, a failed singer who has replaced dreams with betrayal.
Stressed by the overwhelming situation, Peggy faints during the awards ceremony.
Upon awakening, she discovers that she has gone back in time, finding in the shoes of her 17-year-old self just as her husband, at the time her boyfriend, is kissing her in front of everyone.
Everything appears as a vivid memory: her lifelong friends, the impressive school, and the old house with her parents and younger sister.
Taking advantage of this unique opportunity, Peggy experiences her past with a new eye, appreciating the small joys she took for granted then, better understanding the choices of her parents and friends, and also trying to avoid the mistakes which had broken her life down.
At the same time, she gets to know better some of the boys she once ignored, such as the brilliant Richard Norvik, who would later become a billionaire inventor, or the charming and grumpy poet Michael Fitzsimmons, on whom she had always had a secret crush.
Unfortunately, despite all her efforts, the future seems stubbornly to repeat again, leading her to an unhappy and disastrous marriage.
However, she eventually realizes that perhaps it is not the past that needs to change but how she looks and appreciates the world and the strange people around her.
A Quest for Self-understanding
We often look for a specific emotion watching a movie, whether it is the thriller or horror suspense, the adrenaline of an action-adventure, or the lightheartedness of a comedy and romance.
About Peggy Sue Got Married, we must imagine a category entitled Peace and Relax, the only suitable label for this forgotten 1986 movie.
It does not have the frenzy of a thriller or the rage of a drama but rather a gentle calmness and a sense of sweet nostalgia.
Francis Ford Coppola shapes the plot with a delicate and careful touch. He does not lead us through tangled paradoxes or alter relevant historical episodes. There is no chaos, just a harmonious flow of events and memories.
It focuses on one woman, an unconventional time traveler, who returns to the past twenty years earlier and whose goal is not to change history but to try to better understand herself and her life.
At one time, everyone saw her and her husband as the ideal match, promising to be guardians of endless happiness. But the fate tests their dreams when one day he chooses a different path, which leads to betrayal and sadness.
Despite the pain, the love for their children remains a solid emotional glue but not enough to maintain their union. These beloved little beings are the beacon in the darkness of their disunity, eternally around their mother’s neck in the small photographs inside a pendant.
The plot flows from one episode to the next in the protagonist’s life, enriched by experience and maturity. There are no forced dramatic interludes, death to prevent, or fate to save.
In short, it’s a gentle and reflective meditation on existence, a relaxing and oh-so-different pause in the tumult of mainstream cinematic productions, which always try to impress and be spectacular.
Future movie stars arrive from the past
The central figure in this 1986 movie, Peggy Sue Got Married, is, of course, Peggy Sue, played by Kathleen Turner, a cinematic icon who has always been one of my favorites.
She combines extraordinary skill with unique charm, making her a rare gem and the essence of cinema. In all her roles, she is a perfect mix of intelligence, humor, strength, and fragility, all wrapped up in an unparalleled beauty comparable to the greatest stars of the past.
In this case, she is a woman re-embracing her youth, like the most classic universal wish dreamed of by many: going back in time, beautiful and young, yet retaining the wisdom accumulated with age.
On her journey, she reunites with her old love, played by Nicolas Cage, and their relationship comes alive with gentle irony and adorable affection amid jokes, flirtation, and quarrels.
As for Cage, we cannot deny that being Coppola’s nephew is a detail that helped his entry into the movie business. However, we should remember the actor proved generation after generation that he deserves a place among the greatest.
Cage shows his versatility already seen in prestigious productions, such as Brian De Palma’s thriller Snake Eyes, and in more limited-budget movies, such as Kill Chain. Again, his performance is independent of context and always charged with passion and dedication.
Wanting to slightly criticize Coppola, I am disappointed to see Jim Carrey‘s powerful and histrionic charisma completely wasted, relegated simply to being Cage’s smiling sidekick and nothing else.
Perhaps the director had not yet realized the comic potential of this actor. However, he makes a little better use of the talent of young Helen Hunt, the future star of countless romantic comedies, in this case, as the main character’s daughter.