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Yet, once stuck in the '50s, she loves releasing the adolescent enthusiasm that has been stifled in her mid-life soul. Every mundane moment is suddenly precious: breakfast with her parents and kid sister, singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in homeroom, catching Dick Clark on the old American Bandstand ("That man never ages!"). She dotes on her angora sweaters and her Iron- Maidenform bras, her mom's Rice Krispies cookies and tremulous advice ("Peggy, you know what a penis is -- stay away from it!"). She enjoys vamping Michael the beatnik, sharing a joint in a moonlit meadow as he howls out his Ginsbergian verse ("Sucking pods of bitterness/ In the madhouse of Doctor Dread/ Razor shreds of rat puke fall on my bare arms"). She is even touched by Charlie's perplexed devotion, his doomed itch for pop stardom, his '50s suaveness that plays like '80s nerdity. Youth may be wasted on the young, but Peggy Sue savors it the second time around.
Though there are plenty of time-lapse jokes about Edsels and the Beatles and moonwalks and miracles of the computer age ("Everything else gets tiny," she says, "but portable radios get enormous"), Peggy Sue is streaked with melancholy. She is an alien in 1960; she will be stranded too when she returns to the '80s, where the boulevard of possibilities has narrowed to a blind alley. Reconciling with Charlie or starting life over without him seem dour alternatives after her glimpse at the limitless prospects of her youth. Like the Jimmy Stewart character in Frank Capra's 1946 It's a Wonderful Life, she receives the gift of second sight. But Peggy Sue's flashback convinces her that she must treasure what she has lost, not what she has achieved. A bittersweet dream, but it is knowledge to build on. And as played by Turner, she is one beautiful dreamer.
In earlier roles -- as the scheming siren in Body Heat, the prostitute drunk on erotic danger in Crimes of Passion, the chic hit woman of Prizzi's Honor -- Turner has dazzlingly portrayed women with elusive identities. Was a Turner character foxy or a weasel, or tantalizing bits of both? Peggy Sue, while tamping down the actress's smoldering Wasp sexuality, challenges her to play two characters and moods at once. She must simultaneously experience and elegize the high spirits of her teens, and she accomplishes the feat with grace, wit and feeling. Turner, 32, cannot pass for a teenager, but that makes sense. The young Peggy Sue is "not herself"; she is older and on the way to being wiser. It is appropriate too that Cage, 22, seems younger, jerkier than his girlfriend, because, being a guy, he is. With his dinky voice and fake teeth, professing ardor in a gold lame jacket or smacking the dumbness out of his forehead, Charlie can endear or exasperate. Cage's brave turn teeters toward caricature, then tiptoes back toward sympathy.
Peggy Sue has had a turbulent history, surviving defections by its original star, Debra Winger, and Directors Penny Marshall and Jonathan Demme. But everything finally came together under the sensitive directorial hand of, yes, Francis Coppola. The supporting cast is splendid. The film's occasional lapses never puncture the airy tone; they are easily forgiven, like Peggy Sue and her friends, whose only sin was to grow up. This prom-night balloon of a movie floats easily above the year's other exercises in '50s nostalgia. If you dare reach for it, it will land smartly in your heart.