Winning The Lottery With Nicolas Cage #9

Hello! My name is Ed and I am trying to win the lottery by watching Nicolas Cage films.

What would you do if had the chance to travel back in time and fix your mistakes? Would you be able to fix it so you’d have something more fulfilling to do with your existence than watch 2 Nicolas Cage films a week and pretending it will win you the lottery? Or would you decide to change nothing and do it all over again?

Well, that’s exactly the dilemma Kathleen Turner faces in

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

apart from the bit about watching 2 Nicolas Cage films a week and the lottery. But basically exactly the same as that!

It’s the eve of Peggy Sue (Turner)’s 25-year school reunion and she’s somewhat dreading it, having recently separated from her unfaithful husband, and high school sweetheart, Charlie (Nic Cage). Running into her old school friends gets her reminiscing about what she’d have done differently if only she got another chance, which she then immediately does after falling over and waking up in 1960.

Peggy Sue Got Married, the 3rd and final collaboration between Cage and his uncle Francis Ford Coppola, bears some striking superficial similarities to the previous year’s Back To The Future, although here the time traveller is returning to her own past rather than that of her parents. Class geek Richard becomes a pseudo-Doc Brown, convinced of Peggy’s story after she tells him of his future as a great inventor. Both films climax with their leads attempting to return to their own times via deeply unlikely procedures in the middle of a thunderstorm.

But thematically they’re very different — where Back To The Future is about the realisation that your parents probably weren’t always so different to you, this is about dealing with your own past, regrets and missed opportunities. Peggy Sue desperately wants to get back to her adult life — but is also hugely tempted by the opportunity to start over again and do it differently this time. Also to do it with the school’s would-be beat poet in the woods.

Cage’s role as written is fairly straightforward stuff — in 1960 a carefree romantic with dreams of being a rock ‘n’ roll star, by 1985 given a heavy dash of disillusionment and midlife crisis. Cage’s role as acted? Well…

For reasons best known to Nicolas Cage, he decided he was going to base the character on a squeakily voiced animated horse called Pokey from a sort of shit American prefiguring of Morph called The Gumby Show. Complete with ludicrously huge false teeth. Which is all rather enjoyable on its own merits — the carefree musician played with a bizarre goofball energy — to draw another Back To The Future analogy, Cage is playing both Marty and George McFly simultaneously, as one character. (George McFly was played by Crispin Glover, previously encountered in The Best Of Times and, briefly, Racing With The Moon.)

But here’s the problem: Cage’s ridiculous performance is almost totally incompatible with the rest of the film. By all accounts Kathleen Turner was furious about the whole business (that the director could be taken to be allowing his idiot boy nephew to get away with it can’t have helped) — and this is visible in their almost catastrophic lack of chemistry. Fine when she’s reacting to the man who has (or is going to) leave her for a younger woman, pretty hopeless when we’re supposed to believe she’s fallen in love all over again.

It’s a shame, as Peggy Sue Got Married is otherwise not half bad — Turner is charming, Coppola’s nostalgia for the era is palpable, and the script’s refreshingly unpredictable, with a bittersweet (if not entirely unhopeful) ending.

Somewhat improbably, a musical adaptation of Peggy Sue Get Married opened in London’s West End for a few weeks in 2001, before closing a few weeks later after 9–11 made people stop wanting to see musicals. Never forget.

But will I never forget the day I watched Peggy Sue Got Married because it was the day I won the lottery?

THE NUMBERS:

3 — Everyone’s constantly saying “Why, I oughta!” and laughing. This is something one of The Three Stooges says, apparently.

5 — Peggy Sue’s mum wears Chanel No. 5 — Peggy Sue finds the smell nostalgic which is a bit of clever irony because she is smelling it in the past. Peggy Sue’s daughter, meanwhile, is played by Helen Hunt, also the co-star of some of the implausibly terrible Trancers films, which are also about time-travel and make Police Academy seem like an artistically important franchise.

6 — When Peggy tells Richard the nerd that man will land on the moon in 1969 he claims this is 6 years ahead of schedule. For space reasons, I imagine.

10 — Michael the school poet says he’ll be gone 10 minutes after graduation. He’s planning to go to Utah and wants Peggy Sue to come with him and help his other girlfriend look after his chickens while he writes poetry. Amazingly she turns down this offer.

25 — The films opens at Peggy Sue’s 25th school reunion. One of Peggy Sue’s school friends is played by the lady what kisses Captain Kirk in Star Trek IV, which is also also about time travel.

55 — The Gumby Show, which featured Cage’s inspiration Pokey the horse, was first shown in 1955.

THE RESULT:

0 matches on the Peggy Sue Got Married ticket, 1 match on the Lucky Dip I won last time. Damn you, Peggy Sue.

NEXT TIME ON NICOLAS CAGE:

Cage meets the Coens, in Raising Arizona.

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