When you’re the guy who made The Godfather Trilogy, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, a silly little time travel romance is never gonna be a stand out amongst your illustrious filmography. And when you’re the guy who made Jack (you know, the one where Robin Williams plays a ten year old kid with a crazy aging disease), a silly little time travel romance is never gonna stand out as one of your worst either. But the thing is, when you’re a guy named Francis Ford Coppola, your silly little time travel romance is probably gonna be the best a silly little time travel romance is ever gonna be. All of that is to say, Peggy Sue Got Married is a much better movie than its premise would have you believe.
What makes this throw away idea work are the lead performances by Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage. Turner is the titular Peggy Sue. In present day 1986, she’s separated from her high school sweetheart, now husband, Nicolas Cage, and on her way to a school reunion. At the reunion, we’re quickly introduced to a few key friends, where their character arc types and current standings in the world are quickly dispatched so we know who’s who and where they’re headed once we meet them again back in 1960. Coz’ that’s where Turner ends up pretty soon into this movie.
Turner sells the disbelief, acceptance and embracing of time travel so well, that at no point do her attitude or decisions seem rushed for the sake of plot momentum. And even when she makes decisions that she knows for a fact won’t work out for the best in the future, you believe they really were the only decision this character could ever make, no matter how many chances she might get at a do over.
While Turner is the cynical head of the movie, flash back Nicolas Cage gets the far more fun role of the over optimistic heart of Peggy Sue Got Married. The fact that we get to see his 1986 loser self makes his 1960 wide eyed romantic all the more likeable. These days, Cage gets a lot of attention for his bat shit crazy approaches to most characters, but it’s really nothing new. Cage’s best (and worst) characters his entire career have all come from the weird choices he makes that no other actor would ever even dream of if they were playing that same character. He’s a go-big-or- go-home kind of actor. When he misses, he really misses. But when he hits, you get really interesting stuff. Whether it’s heavy, restrained drama like Leaving Las Vegas, or total fluff like Peggy Sue Got Married.
Is it all a dream, or did Peggy Sue travel back in time? The best part of this movie is that it doesn’t really matter. 1986 Peggy Sue has learnt what she needed to learn, whether or not she actually went back to 1960. And that’s the kind of thing Coppola does to make sure Peggy Sue Got Married is more than just a silly little time travel romance.