Peggy Sue is an all-American girl going haywire. She’s a wife, a mother of two, and a businesswoman, facing a divorce and middle age with alarm.
She’s also facing her 25th high school reunion with dread. Urged on by her daughter, she dresses up “like a blast from the past” and reluctantly attends, groaning, “If I only knew then what I know now, I’d do it all differently – l wouldn’t make the same mistakes.”
When the reunion committee crowns her queen of the prom, she’s so mortified and overwrought that she passes out cold, and when Peggy Sue wakes up, it’s 1960 and everyone is eighteen again.
But what a difference! Peggy Sue knows about microwave ovens, women’s lib, space travel, computers, and heart transplants, while her classmates are all twirling batons and mooning over Fabian.
The comic possibilities are limitless, and Coppola juices them for all they’re worth.
Seeing everything from a mature perspective, she tells her algebra teacher she won’t be needing his course in the future and speaks from experience. When her father (Don Murray) buys an Edsel, only Peggy Sue knows it’s a lemon. When her mother (Barbara Hams) asks her what she and her boyfriend Charlie fought about, Peggy Sue snaps, “House payments.”
What a dilemma. She’s a grown woman with a lifetime of experience and nobody believes her. “Get into microchips,” she advises the school nerd, and he doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
It’s the best time of her life, but Peggy Sue knows how it all will change. Even a harmless date with Charlie (Nicolas Cage), the high school sweetheart she will later marry, takes a different slant when a girl’s got twenty-five years of sexual experience and the boy doesn’t know it.
Things don’t happen again the way they did when she was eighteen. This time they happen the way Peggy Sue wants them to. Using her knowledge of the future, she decides to change the events of her youth and alter history, confusing everyone in the process.
How Peggy Sue becomes dislodged in time and sent back home is like Judy Garland trying to get back to Kansas in The Wizard of Oz. It’s one of the movie’s most amazing secrets and we won’t divulge it here.
Who wouldn’t feel drawn to the idea of reliving the past? But through the range and emotional power of Kathleen Turner, it is immensely touching to see her visit her grandparents’ farm again, watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and feel the wallpaper in her old room once more.
It’s great to see classy veterans like Leon Ames and Maureen O’Sullivan as Peggy Sue’s loving grandparents and even the younger actors seem regenerated by the material.
From the pastel birthday cake colours of Dean Tavoularis’s production designs to the muted impressions of Jordan Cronenweth’s camera work, Coppola has distilled the essence of a 1960s dream.
Kevin J. O’Connor
Lisa Jane Persky
Francis Ford Coppola