Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Both Sides Now: Peggy Sue Got Married

Peggy Sue Got Married came during a time when time-travel was a popular concept, especially when you consider that the film bares more than a passing resemblance to Back to the Future, which came out a year earlier. However, where Back to the Future was more of a lightweight fantasy, Peggy Sue Got Married is more thematically heavy, examining second chances and the understanding of destiny. It's not necessarily a great film, but it is a good, minor Francis Coppola film with a fine performance from Kathleen Turner (who was Oscar nominated) and an unusually restrained Nicolas Cage (perhaps the last such performance until 2002's Adaptation). 

There are some really great shots in the film, but my favorite is actually my favorites: a matching pair of tracking shots that bookend the film. In the first scene of the film, we see Peggy Sue's daughter is watching her father, "Crazy" Charlie Bodell, selling fortune cookies on TV.

The camera moves out to reveal that the sequence is being shown in Peggy's mirror as she applies her makeup, getting ready to go to a high school reunion that she's dreading. She's getting divorced from Charlie, and doesn't want to face her classmates with the failure of her marriage. It's the same reunion where she'll pass out and wake up in 1960, getting an opportunity for a do-over.

In this sense, this visual motif tells us that this film is essentially a Through the Looking-Glass for Peggy. We're first introduced to her in a mirror, and when she arrives in 1960, she's mirroring her previous decision. She tries to break it off with Charlie in the past, but we learn at the reunion that they were always an off-and-on couple. She also states that Michael Fitzsimmons (Kevin J. O'Connor) was the first guy she "went all the way with," and lo and behold, she does just that in her do-over. Even though she's given the chance to fix her past mistakes and makes a conscious effort to do so, she still ends up basically replaying everything, mirroring her original choices and actions. It's an interesting statement on the nature of fate, and it's solidified in the film's final shot, which starts with a hug between Charlie and Peggy:

But then is revealed to be another mirror-shot, mirroring the shot from before.

Peggy Sue Got Married is basically one woman's house of mirrors, letting her look back at herself from different angles. She may not have changed anything in her past, but the perspective she gains certainly provides for a better future.

Other great shots:

I love this shot of Peggy and her friends looking at an old picture of Micahel Fitzsimmons on the wall, with the band playing in the background. It's like their in their own world, already back in the past.

I'm also fond of this one, in which Peggy consults future tech billionaire Richard Norvik (Barry Miller) about the possibility of time travel. What I like is how they're positioned on different sides on the arc on the wall, with Richard in the past (this is in 1960) and Peggy on the future side. It's a intriguing visual, and it's well-composed.

And then I really like this one, where Peggy is confronting Charlie about the end of their relationship. The divider between the two is a nice touch; Jordan Cronenweth earned an Oscar nomination for his cinematography here, and he certainly deserved it.

This has been a part of The Film Experience's Hit Me with Your Best Shot.



thank you so much for participating. I really enjoyed reading this post. Particularly because I always hated that frame and you've made me reconsider it.

great stuff. Also love the way Coppola is constantly visually separating Peggy from other people. She is out of time.

TRIVIA: the cinematographer is the father of the Social Network cinematographer!

Jason H. said...

Thanks :)