Cage-Fest, Day 3: Peggy Sue Got Married
In preparation for — nay, in honor of — the upcoming premier of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call in New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great performer Nicolas Cage, the Acme Video blog will be running a series of (at least) daily pieces on the entire Cage Oeuvre, with its startling highs and mystifying lows. It is one man’s tale… a chronicle of madness and obsession.
DAY 3: PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED
The film that ended the professional relationship of Francis Ford Coppola and Nicolas Cage. Cage, who is nephew to Coppola and had worked with him previously on Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club (we’ll be getting to those films later), plays Kathleen Turner‘s main squeeze in this nostalgic, time-traveling, graceless attempt at 50’s-era high school romp. They call these films, “Dramedies,” I think — shorthand for a film that’s too lazy to be funny and too stupid to be dramatic. Maybe this was the beginning of the end for Coppola. Bear in mind, we’re not talking about the director of Apocalypse Now, here; we’re talking about the director of Jack.
That said, the film ended up being a solid box-office success for Coppola, his first since Apocalypse Now. In fact, a lot of people seem to like this movie (rated 88% “Fresh” (?!) on Rotten Tomatoes). Maybe it’s an age thing… But as someone who hadn’t bothered to ever watch this flick until just a few days ago, I can honestly say that this is one of the stupidest, clumsiest, most trite films I’ve ever seen (again, Jack comes to mind). The plot is so cumbersome and poorly constructed you can actually hear it creaking as it stumbles forward.
That is, unless Nic Cage is on the screen. Cast in the kind of role and in the kind of movie that normally would have called for a cocky, masculine performance, Cage instead distills his character into a supremely dopey Ken-doll with a pinched, hyper-nasal speaking voice. Cage has since admitted that he based the voice on that of Pokey from the Gumby Show; numerous accounts from the production claim that Coppola was extremely unhappy with the voice and wanted Cage out of the film completely. Somehow, Cage was able to convince him that the voice would work and he should be allowed to stay on. And apart from bringing a much-needed dose of sarcasm to a film that gags on its own earnestness, there’s a zany energy to Cage’s performance that does far greater justice to the spirit of youth than any of the other campy, ebullient turns by the film’s obviously over-age cast. He’s the only one who lets the audience in on the fun; the only one who seems to understand that if you really want to act like teenager, you have to act like a teenager.
This clip is kind of long; skip to 2:50 if you want to go straight to Cage.