I could have gone the typical route in comparing time travel movies and done this with Back to the Future and something else; however, I think the comparison between these two movies is an interesting one. Somewhere in Time deals with a man who deliberately tries to go back in time and use time travel to his advantage, whereas Peggy Sue Got Married follows the outline of someone who ends up back in time within their own lifetime.
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Peggy Sue Got Married deals with something that everyone has probably had a dream about at one point in their lives or another. What if we mistakenly ended up back in time within our own lifetimes and could have a “do-over?” Quantum Leap took this concept and ran with it for five seasons of successful television.
In 1986, Francis Ford Coppola employed his daughter Sofia, his nephew Nicholas Cage, a young Helen Hunt, and relative newcomer Jim Carrey, in this film carried by Kathleen Turner in the title role as Peggy Sue. Like Somewhere in Time, Peggy Sue Got Married has a main character has a protagonist who reveals information about future events much to the confusion of those around them. Peggy’s life hasn’t exactly gone the way she’d thought, so this second chance, at first, seems perfect. Then, like all time travelers before her, she wants to go home again.
Just look at Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Much like Oz, Peggy Sue Got Married borrows some plot elements from the cinema classic. Although there is no wicked witch tracking her down, there is a ceremony performed by her grandfather that is reminiscent of the Wizard character himself. And probably due to the success of the 80s classic, Back to the Future, Doc Brown could be a prototype for Peggy Sue‘s resident genius, Richard Norvik. And in the end,Peggy Sue’s time travel was due to a heart attack, a slightly harsher injury than Dorothy’s fainting spell in Oz, yet each end up home again safe and sound.
The goal to end up back where you came from is not the main element in Somewhere in Time though. Even with Christopher Reeve’s handsome leading man being thrust back into the future, it has much more tragic end. SPOILER ALERT: He dies. Yet, Somewhere in Time has probably influenced countless movies that came after it (Titanic for starters,) and like Oz, has a protagonist thrust into circumstances of uncertainty with people who are unfamiliar. The resident wicked witch of it all, Christopher Plummer, doing his best domineering manager/love interest (?) of the early 1900s. Jane Seymour, in a pre-Dr. Quinn role, stars alongside Reeve as prominent stage actress Elise McKenna, who dies after seeing a play that writer Richard Collier (Reeves) produced. The older version of Elise McKenna melodramatically begs Reeve’s character to “Come back [to me.]”As fate would have it, Collier deliberately uses self-hypnosis to travel back in time to find the young Elise McKenna, fall in love with her and live happily ever after. That is until a brand new shiny penny screws up the whole “Happily Ever After” thing.
What I find most interesting about a movie like Somewhere in Time, is not necessarily the love element, but the amount of preparation and deliberate efforts on part of the main character to actually GO back in time with a specific purpose. Unlike something like Back to the Future where the characters wanted to see if time travel was possible, Somewhere in Time goes back in time with a very very specific purpose of staying there. The character of Richard takes the necessary steps needed to take care of his affairs in the present even before venturing into the past. He buys a suit that is of the time period he wants to be a part of. He even consults a former professor from college to make sure that something like time travel IS possible. Both Peggy Sue Got Married and Somewhere in Time make an effort with their scripts and pose the question of whether or not time travel is even possible in this day and age.
The main goal of Somewhere in Time is to find a specific person, make the lead characters fall in love despite enormous circumstances and throw a wrench in the whole big picture at the end. Mission accomplished. The “wrench” however, is a little disappointing though. I mean, Richard takes every precaution to assure that what he has on his person when he goes back is of the era…and leave it to a penny from the future to screw things up. However, just like Peggy Sue Got Married, this movie also has their resident Wizard in the form of an elderly man who grew up at the Inn where the story takes place. The only difference is that instead of helping the main character get back to where they came from, he’s helping the main character go back in time and stay there for good. Despite the fact that this movie is very very melodramatic, it is well done. The score (which I ended up studying in a college music class) is one of the romantic ones of all time.
The sad part about this movie comes about when time literally gets in the way of the love that the main characters have for each other and the only way they’ll be together again is in heaven. I swear, James Cameron borrowed from Somewhere in Time, especially at the end. Titanic and Somewhere in Time are so similar, that Christopher Plummer and Billy Zane each play characters who are nearly identical to one another. Both are controlling, manipulative, threatened by the outsider, and have their lovely ladies whisked away by the charming leading man.
All in all, see these movies. Time travel movies can be fun and make us realize how lucky we are to be living in the present moment with the people in our lives. They add a bit of fantasy and tragedy to our viewing experience. Let’s be honest while we’re at it…we’d all love to fall in love with Christopher Reeve or play dress up like Kathleen Turner for the day. With these movies, you can. They’re enjoyable and available on Netflix. Rent them and go back in time for yourself.