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'Peggy Sue Got Married': Life, on Second Thought
By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic
01:38PM / Friday, September 25, 2020
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I wish that I were reviewing one of the half-dozen movies certain to be made when this pox upon our house is no more. But until that glorious return to normality has us resuming all the simple joys of life we take for granted, like going to the movies, I'll be retro-reviewing and thereby sharing with you the films that I've come to treasure over the years, most of which can probably be retrieved from one of the movie streaming services. It is my fondest hope that I've barely put a dent into this trove when they let the likes of me back into the Bijou.

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Once upon a time, in a rare stroke of humility, I wrote a column titled "Five I Got Wrong," a mea culpa wherein I acknowledged that, through the wisdom attained through reflection, I had erringly misjudged and underrated the five movies in question. (Yeah, like there were only five.)

Director Francis Ford Coppola's "Peggy Sue Got Married," about a woman who, at her 25th high school reunion in 1985 faints and wakes up back in 1960, was among the more egregiously underprized.
 
Kathleen Turner is the attractively heady time traveler who, after coming to grips with the whimsically convincing hocus-pocus upon which the plot revolves, gets to contemplatively romance the age-old what if: "If You Had It To Do All Over Again, Would You Do Anything Differently?"
 
Thus, through the good graces of Turner's splendidly realized title character, viewers are more than tacitly encouraged to mull their own traipse through life's seemingly infinite doors of decision. I for one vacillate, when eschewing a career in film criticism, between being a podiatrist or commanding a hot dog emporium. No deep thought about artistic responsibility, human nature and whatever other balderdash I can concoct to comprise 835 words. Just fix their feet or hand'em a hot dog and then go home, have dinner and watch the game. Marx, Freud, Darwin? Who are they?
 
But what if I choose the frankfurter route and then decide I should have trod the foot path? I can't go back to podiatric college now, not at this age, and what do I do about those hundreds of pounds of hot dogs, the fixtures and all the fixings? And who's going to remember that Marx likes his dog with brown mustard and kraut; Darwin is chili, yellow mustard and raw onion; and Freud, well, it's our special secret that he likes the much-tabooed ketchup on his footlong?
 
I tell you, it's just not fair. As Peggy Sue finds out, even given the chance of a do over, deciding an alternate road traveled is fraught with pitfalls. And that's not even considering the whole sci-fi rigmarole about whether, having returned to the past, you can thence change the future. But it's lots of fun to consider all the same, the reveries one conjures often proving a heartening little segue from the realities down at the hot dog joint. Especially when that kid you've been training for six weeks suddenly falls off the face of the Earth and there's a 60-pound sack of potatoes to drag up from the cellar.
 
For Peggy, a thoughtful, dreamy sort upon whom the idea of a do-over is not wasted — as it would be on my podiatric nurse who doesn't like cartoons because, "animals can't talk" — her primary concern is the future of her marriage to Nicolas Cage's Charlie Bodell back in 1985.
 
When she left, he had recently been unfaithful, and the clouds of divorce were looming.
 
But now, seeing him young and confident in 1960, with aspirations of becoming a singing star, and not the heir apparent to appliance store hucksterism he acceded to when he and Peggy Sue "had" to get married, proves a lightning bolt of reassessment. Remember, such was oft the edict of pre-Notorious RBG days.
 
So, that's the serious, life-affirming stuff. But you can count on Peggy Sue Kelcher to also explore the more whimsical and wish fulfilling aspects of her trip into the Twilight Zone, like a long-deferred romantic interlude with motorcycle-riding Michael Fitzsimons, budding hippie and writer. He regales of Kerouac, his idealism reawakening in our gal an all but forgotten faith in the horizon.
 
It's very sweet, and so is, in but another way, a tête-à-tête with Barry Miller's Richard Norvik, the school geek who will become a billionaire inventor. Imploring his thoughts on the possibility of time travel, Peggy Sue thankfully reciprocates with several peeks into the future. When she informs that we'll land a man on the moon in 1969, the brilliant nerd whom she also gifts with the lucrative design for pantyhose, exclaims, "Gee, that's six years ahead of schedule."
 
While the usual moral lessons about the 20-20-hindsight, a la "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), integral to tales of time travel counsel us not to beat the horse that brought us to our present circumstances, there is a refreshingly delivered, stardust quality in Peggy Sue's genre update. It's all in her fetching style, in the tongue-in-cheek likeability Turner's Oscar-nominated, Alice in Wonderland-like delve into the whims and fates of life's journey achieves.
 
Director Coppola imbues the scenario, written by Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling, with a deadpan truth he adroitly alternates with artistically delivered, often quirky counterpunches. The ploy is instanced in my favorite quote when Peggy Sue, enchanted by a reacquaintance with her loving grandpa, played by Leon Ames, asks if, looking back, he would have done anything differently. A wise stoicism implied, he confidently responds, "I would have taken better care of my teeth."
 
I agree. Darwin, Freud and Marx will just have to find someone else to fix their feet.
 
"Peggy Sue Got Married," rated PG-13, is a TriStar Pictures release directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Kathleen Turner, Nicolas Cage and Barry Miller. Running time: 103 minutes
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