Peggy Sue Got Married
Released in 1986 ▪ Review posted August 17, 2014
“[Nicolas Cage] is Henry Fonda meets Robert Mitchum meets Salvador Dalí with a SAG card.”
After making four of the best American movies of all time (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now), Francis Ford Coppola directed a trio of films starring his nephew—our hero, Nic Cage. The last film in this threesome is Peggy Sue Got Married, and it’s pretty good.
Somewhere between Back to the Future and A Doll’s House we find the titular Peggy Sue, played by Kathleen Turner. After winning an award at her 25-year high school reunion in 1985, she faints and wakes up in 1960 as an 18-year-old again, but with all her adult memories intact. Adventures ensue. What’s interesting about Peggy Sue Got Married is the absence of an omniscient character like an angel, time lord, or black guy to provide story development. The movie allows the magic of surprise time travel to unfold for both the viewer and Peggy Sue at the same time. This is a delightful contrast from other movies with this plot, like The Family Man.
At first Peggy Sue copes by figuring she must be dead. She acts with abandon, drinking in front of her parents and mocking them for buying an Edsel. She is dismissive of everyone in high school who she was too young and too naive to jettison the first time around. She reassesses all her high school romances. It’s fun and funny.
Then there’s Nicolas Cage. Cage, as we all know, has some eccentricities. Many of them come to the fore in his performance as Charlie in Peggy Sue Got Married. It’s impossible not to bring up his Pee-wee Herman voice, which, according to this article, was actually inspired by Gumby’s horse Pokey. His vision for this character almost got him fired.
As weird as Cage’s vocal choices must have seemed on set, I think what he did in Peggy Sue Got Married was genius. There are several different versions of Cage’s Charlie in the movie: his present self in 1985, his past self in 1960, and his revised present self after Peggy Sue relives her past. Charlie was a showboating high school kid, boisterous and ambitious to protect himself from fast-approaching adulthood. Despite his attempts to mask his immaturity, by the ’80s he does have a personally disappointing life—not as the recording artist he wanted to be, but as the king of electronics sales in his hometown. When Peggy goes back in time, she pressures Charlie to give up his peacock bravado and admit his weaknesses, allowing him to have a more honest, satisfying late adolescence. Her efforts pay off, and Charlie has dropped his front by the time she returns to the new present. It’s completely appropriate that Cage, who is known for approaching the craft of acting from a different direction, would express his character’s immaturity vocally. I think this choice added color to his struggle with becoming a man. It added an extra dimension to a movie that was already written and directed in a layered, interesting way.
Cage, whose teeth hadn’t been fixed at this point, also insisted on wearing a set of dentures for this movie. I suppose tactics like this one might explain why Kathleen Turner hated his guts. His method makes his character interesting, but it draws attention away from Turner, whose simple, light, and sincere approach to Peggy Sue is a stark contrast in style. I’m a sucker for someone who tries something different. Cage took a big risk and pulled it off.
Peggy Sue Got Married is also notable for being where Nicolas Cage met Jim Carrey. It’s not widely known, but these two nuts used to be best friends. They hung out, tried to do movies together, and even made art with each other. What became of that friendship isn’t clear. I could only find this article that just says they “fell out of conversation.” Regardless, this is the only Cage/Carrey collaboration that exists. As you watch it, you desperately wish for more interaction between the two. Imagine them as spastic, goofy buddy cops. Imagine them as reject mafiosi taking over the family after some crazy turn of events. Imagine them just going full-bore bananas in a decent PG-rated kids’ movie about ghosts or whatever. We can only hope they pick their conversation back up some day.
- How was the movie?
- How was Nic Cage’s acting?
- Risky, but it paid off!
- Did his performance make the movie worse?