Once upon a time there was a girl named Peggy Sue. She got married to her high school sweetheart, had two kids, and then got divorced. Then, at her high school’s 25th reunion a very strange thing happened to her…
As Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) is being crowned queen of the reunion, she passes out and awakens back in 1961 in her senior year of high school. It’s a most unique time travel film, as Peggy Sue’s mind travels back to her younger body, and she gets a chance to experience her youth over again, knowing what she knows as an adult.
She gets a chance to see her parents, and sister again. She talks to her grandmother on the phone, which really freaks her out. She gets a chance to standup to the jerks in high school that make fun of the “nerd.” And she gets a chance to revisit the relationship between her and her future-husband (Nicolas Cage).
This is a very uncommon time travel movies. One huge difference with this particular film, is that it’s directed by Oscar award winner Francis Ford Coppola. It’s also shot as a period piece, with a little more style than the previous year’s time travel hit, Back to the Future. But the biggest thing is, this film is much more about regret, than time travel.
Peggy Sue regrets all the decisions that led her to where she was at the beginning of the film. She decides that this chance to relive her senior year, and her decision to sleep with Charlie, which in her mind is what ruined her life, is one big do-over. Along the way she imparts information about the future to the “nerd” Richard, shares women’s lib with her friends and warns her sister about the dangers of red-dye #5 in M&M’s. And of course, she decides to do all the things she never got to do, due to her being 18 and pregnant.
This film is definitely quirky, and feels like an independent film, which it sort of is with Coppola’s self producing this thru his Zoetrope studio. It features early performances by Nicolas Cage (who shares his crazy side), Helen Hunt and Jim Carey. It also feels similar to Back to the Future, but are less humorous about the depiction of the past. The characters have funny moments, but Peggy Sue is not caught up in the kitcsh of nostalgia that Zemeckis and BTTF is. There’s even a moment where Peggy Sue explains to Richard that she “came here from the future.” But that’s only on the soundtrack. What she really says, reading her lips, is she “came back from the future.” A clever editor probably realized it was not great to reference the hit summer film from the previous year!
In the end, Peggy Sue does not changed anything and awakens in the hospital back in 1986. She, however, has changed. The experiences she had (or maybe didn’t have. Was this all a Wizard of Oz trip, in her head?) have changed the person she thought she was. But it’s not a magical, everyone lives happily ever after ending. She realizes that her husband really did love her, and that she may have been unfair. And the two of them decide to take things a step at a time. Her regret has been smoothed over by her analysis of the past, and Peggy Sue has reviewed the lessons of her life as preparation for her next step.
Peggy Sue Got Married was voted #8 on Time’s Top 10 Time Travel films from March 2010.