it happens every summer: day two

day two of the queue begins with a trip back in time with francis ford coppola's peggy sue got married (1986).

kathleen turner is peggy sue, a woman for whom divorce seems imminent. she is looking down the barrel of her 25-year high school reunion and the prospect of having to answer question after question about where her husband, and high school sweetheart, is is not particularly appealing. after being named reunion royalty, in the midst of the coronation ceremony, peggy sue faints and awakes to find herself back in 1960, reliving the days right before her high school graduation. i have a deep aversion to this particular subgenre. i have never been able to understand or empathize with the whole bodyswitching thing. usually, the only emotion it engenders in me is pity. the eternal presence of this trope on our entertainment landscape just makes me sad that there are apparently so many people out there that so desperately wish they were someone else, that they could go back and do it again. and it only reinforces my separation from the material by setting it at a reunion. for the life of me, i will never get what is so goddamned traumatic about these events and how they cause full-grown adults such anxiety. my predispositions toward all this repression and wish-fulfillment aside, there were one or two things i enjoyed about the movie. kathleen turner was good, and the scene where she rediscovers the joys of singing "my country 'tis of thee" was quite funny, as were some of the jokes revolving around her knowledge of future events. the implied rekindling of peggy sue and charlie's relationship at the end remains troubling, though. why go through this elaborate fantasy with an infinite number of new choices to make and the benefit of all your experience to arrive at the same place with a person who is a parody of the one you fell in love with? why spend time skewering all of those eisenhower-era societal constructs only to be presented with a series of choices at the end that find your fate so contingent on the choice of the man you're going to be with? marry the geek, run off with the beatnik or stick with what you know? what about all the other choices, the ones that would have been peggy sue doing what she wanted, strictly for her own sake? after a brief dalliance with a world of new possibilities, she awakes in the present and immediately begins to rebuild her white picket fence, dreams and aspirations of her youth once again pushed to the side. i already feel like these "wish i could go back" narratives are sad and empty, doubly so when you don't actually do much with the opportunity except have sex with a bad poet.

i prefer modern girls - and when that modern girl is a no-bullshit, punk rock diane lane, so much the better - so thank goodness for our second feature, lou adler's ladies and gentlemen, the fabulous stains (1982).

i loved this. it's not perfect, by any means, but it has such a ragged charm and a distinct lack of concern for the marketplace that i give it a lot of credit. diane lane starts a punk rock trio and sets out to carve a place for herself in the annals of music history. it doesn't matter much that they aren't particularly talented. it's punk rock and virtuosity should be suspect. what matters is that she is smart, able and fiercely independent, equally blessed with brains, guts and guile. yes, some of the sentiments that are expressed are a bit juvenile but it's a movie about teenage kids, for cripes sake. what i found most striking about the whole thing is just how much they don't make movies like this about girls. they didn't then, they still don't now, and that is a damned shame. the scene where lane comes into her own during a disastrous debut performance is an explosion of straight-ahead punk rock badassery that women are hardly ever afforded the opportunity to portray onscreen. even with the editorial choices of the film sometimes undermining the strident sexual politics of the lead character, this is a remarkably forward thinking film for 1982, overall. add to that some critical commentary on the role, and manipulation, of the media in our daily lives, the fickle nature of celebrity and the commodification of culture, popular and otherwise, and you have a film that tries to do an awful lot compared to the other movies made for teens at the time. it doesn't always succeed, but considering some of the other, more successful films aimed at "the youth market" in 1982 - porky's, the last american virgin, zapped! - or the formulaic treacle cranked out by john hughes throughout the eighties, this thing plays like a manifesto, a call to arms that went sadly unheeded by the people who needed it most. see it and start a band with your sister!

and, finally, starring elliott gould as the only character i didn't want to slowly murder while making sure they looked in my eyes so they knew who was doing this to them, we have noah baumbach's kicking and screaming (1995).

i may have an aversion to the bodyswitching subgenre but it is nothing compared to my bright disdain for the "twentysomethings on the verge of 'real life' who don't know what they're going to do with themselves but will talk about it ad nauseum" subgenre. held no appeal for me when i was twentysomething, holds no appeal for me now. you can certainly make the argument that i just don't get it. you would be right. there's nothing in here that applies to me. i don't want to get it. here's what you do: you just get on with it, you pasty, overeducated, first world crybabies. do you know how bad it is when i would rather be watching a whit stillman movie? (sorry, joe). baumbach's story follows four friends dealing with graduation from college in the following ways: having indiscriminate sex with freshmen, taking up with girlfriends that are (in their minds) below their station, thus turning what should be a relationship into silent, sadomasochistic class warfare, confusing knowing trivia with having wisdom and saying cruel and clever things to one another. and oh man, the clever is on eleven. you think kevin smith is in love with the sound of his own voice? i understand that baumbach might be trying to make some sort of comment about the stunted emotional states of these characters but any significant insight is completely lost in how much he wants to impress you with how he is saying it. his method ends up not only not condemning their immaturity and evasions, but aiding and abetting them. vitagraph favorite, elliott gould, shows up to provide an all too brief respite from these effete clowns and olivia d'abo and her overbite manage to brighten things momentarily. she at least fastens her quirks to a character with some focus and energy, making her neuroses feel lived-in and not just a figment of undergrad imagination riddled with affectations. those were the highlights, what few i could find. if you consider this a spot-on depiction of college life then, not to put too fine a point on it, you most likely were an insufferable, privileged asshole in (your small liberal arts) college. this absolutely dissuades me from seeing anything else he's made, which is a shame because i hear the squid and the whale (2005) is miles better than this. with any luck, it has more success working in humanizing aspects of character and doesn't rely on unrelenting, unrepentant smugness as its sole voice.

oh well, can't win 'em all. ending on a down note tonight.

i am confident that tomorrow will reverse that trend.


  1. Oh goodness. I hould have known! I love kicking and screaming and will not apologize, mostly because 1. i still find the dialogue snappy and funny after seeing it a dozen times, and 2. Chris Eigeman is dreamy with his hands in pockets all the time. Parker Posey doesn't hurt either. but I get what you are saying about the genre. i guess i think of K&S as ALMOST a satire of said genre just because the characters are SO aimless and spoiled ("I'm Max. I do nothing.") that it seems like it couldn't possibly be meant to depict anything of import other than giggling at them.

    Peggy Sue I chose/love mostly because of Nick Cage's weird inexplicable and yet kind of amazing performance but the aspects of it you focused on are good, valid reasons to question it, especially it's ending.

    I assume you'd already seen The Fabulous Stains but I'm glad it provided a respite. Imperfect to be sure, but like you said, Diane Lane gets to play one of the best roles for a teenage girl probably ever.... It inspired me a great deal when I was a teenager and still does. I've been wondering since I watched it again in prep for this whether or not the White Stirpes got their name from this movie but google provides no definitive answers. "At the moment, you're just two white stripes."

  2. get in line, merrill.

    my dear summer, if you apologized you would not be the honorary fabulous stain i consider you to be.