Released barely a year after the similar Back to the Future, Francis Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married can’t help but feel like a rather pedestrian studio version of a potentially intriguing idea. Instead of Marty McFly going back to his Mum and Dad’s high school days, it’s Kathleen Turner being zapped back to her youth in the 1960s. Coppola took on the project to get himself back in the studio’s favour after the box office hammering he took on The Cotton Club and therefore Peggy Sue showcases the famously bombastic filmmaker on his best behaviour. While the set-dressing and surface pleasures often blossom into something eye-catching, overall it feels a little bit “Movie of the Week” and is frustratingly placid.
The performances are good with Nicolas Cage being especially fascinating. I’m always taken aback by his early performances, it’s clear he was always painting with bold brush strokes and wanted to make his mark on his generation of actors. He always stands out in these movies to the point of being distracting and yet he is repeatedly the one thing I remember from them. It would all culminate in Moonstruck of course but to see him here, embracing wigs, prosthetics and the truly transformative potential of screen acting, and you can see the seeds planted for the batshit choices he would make later in his career.
This is a well-made and efficient movie with Coppola casually hitting mainstream story beats as if on auto-pilot. It’s one of his most pedestrian achievements; light, fluffy yet absolutely forgettable. Still, it did the trick and gave the filmmaker his biggest box office success since Apocalypse Now. The baby boomers ate it up.