“Charlie, it’s like there’s this window into my heart and you can open and crawl in whenever you want. Well, I’ve got to close it or nothing is ever going to change.”–Peggy Sue
Of all the decisions one makes in life, few are as important or have such long-lasting consequences as the person one chooses to marry or otherwise spend one’s life with. Peggy Sue Got Married takes the fantasy of being able to go back in time and do everything over again and explores it in the context of this particular life choice.
Peggy Sue, played wonderfully by Kathleen Turner, feints at her 25-year high-school reunion only to wake up back in 1960, the year she graduated. No explanation is given for this phenomena; the audience is simply expected to go with it as a necessary plot device or perhaps interpret it as a dream. What she knows now that she didn’t know then, however, is that Charlie, the love of her life and the man she is set to marry shortly after high school, will turn to philandering when his dreams of becoming a singer melt into the ho-hum life of a salesman. Armed with this knowledge, she explores as an alternative a handsome loner beatnik kid who quotes Keats and Kerouac, rides a motorcycle, and dreams of becoming a writer.
It’s interesting to compare this movie with the other time travel movie of the 1980’s, Back to the Future, which came out a year earlier in 1985. In that film, it’s all too easy to unintentionally make changes that drastically impact the future, and the plot revolves around preventing such changes from occuring. In Peggy Sue Got Married, the opposite is true. Peggy fully intends to secure a completely different outcome; however, she finds this surprisingly difficult to accomplish. Experiencing again all the things that attracted her to Charlie in the first place rekindles her feelings for him, and seeing things from a mature perspective she understands other options carried their own risk and uncertainty.
In Back to the Future, Marty has Doc Brown. Peggy Sue also has a genius friend to help her plan her course of action. Unfortunately, the attempt to integrate him into the story line is half-hearted and falls completely flat. The circumstance of the return to the present, which builds so successfully in Back to the Future, is reduced to farce and then to nothing at all in Peggy Sue, resulting in an ending that’s a bit anti-climactic.
Though not as good as it might have been with a better ending, Peggy Sue Got Married is still very much worth a watch. The idea is intriguing, Kathleen Turner gives a great performance, and the sets and costuming are perfect.