What I Want to Be When I Grow Up: A Film Review of “Practical Magic” (1998)

Just re-watched the 1998 classic Practical Magic. So. good.

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It’s actually a very dark story about death, abusive relationships, and a murder investigation. But somehow it is a fun-filled magical film about the power of women, especially when they work together.

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The Owens family features generations composed of sister pairs: one with red hair and one with brown. Kind of like Harry Potter!

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Generation 1: The Aunts

A quick note on the Aunts: I think all of us who were kids in the 90s wanted to be raised by two fun witches in a beautiful old house by the sea in the case of our parents’ untimely deaths. They do such fun things, like casting love spells for people, serving on solstice festival committees, and making midnight margaritas.

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Put the lime in the coconut and you’ll feel better in the morning

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Generation 2: Little Sandra Bullock (young Camilla Belle!)

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Generation 2: Young Nicole Kidman

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Red Hair Generations 2&3 (Little Evan Rachel Wood!)

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Brown Hair Generations 2&3

To very roughly outline the plot (spoilers) there’s a curse on the Owens women: the men they love die. Little Sandra Bullock casts a love spell for an imaginary man to ensure that she will never fall in love. She chooses traits that no real man can have: riding horses backwards, flipping pancakes in the air, having two different colored eyes, being marvelously kind…

Little Nicole Kidman loves falling in love, but she always chooses the wrong men. Exhibit A is Goran Visnjic (you know, that guy from ER) who is jealous, possessive (quite literally), controlling, and abusive.

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Sandra Bullock comes to help Nicole Kidman escape the abusive situation, and they end up killing Goran. To avoid murder charges, they decide to bring him back (I never understood the logic of this, because it was definitely self-defense), but and his spirit/re-animated soul (?) haunts them.

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Meanwhile, Arizonan detective Aidan Quinn is investigating his disappearance. Unsurprisingly, Goran is suspect #1 in the murder of at least one woman.

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God, Sandy and Aidan have great chemistry. It’s super inappropriate for a detective to make pancakes, invite a potential suspect into his hotel room, and kiss her, but somehow Aidan makes it work without being super creepy. But after years of watching Law and Order, I couldn’t help but think that if he really cared about her he’s force her to get a lawyer.

Well, it turns out he is the mystery man that young Sandra Bullock summoned years ago. While other movies would have had him save the women from Goran’s spirit, in this movie he is completely ineffectual. He manages to protect himself, but not much more.

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It is only the combined force of all our female characters, plus all their friends/neighbors/PTA assholes, to defeat and banish Goran permanently.

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Message of this movie? Uteruses before duderuses.  Lovers come and go, but sisters/family are forever.

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What could be better?

This post is dedicated to our devoted reader Caroline. We’re still deciding which one of us will be Stockard Channing and which one will be Dianne Wiest when we grow up. We are also looking for two precocious orphans (boys need not apply) to raise poorly.

2 thoughts on “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up: A Film Review of “Practical Magic” (1998)

  1. Practical Magic is such a classic. So glad you posted about it!! I can’t remember if I ever posted a link to this other site’s review of the film (https://feminema.wordpress.com/category/films-by-name/practical-magic/), which made a lot of sense to me as soon as I read it. The blogger touches on the intense likability of the house itself as both a visual come-hither for us ladies and a locus of female-friendly spaces, and also the intense connections and important relationships among the women (natch), but I liked her concluding remarks about how she felt the movie enabled her to “read into” the film, as well, thus making the movie elastic and ensuring countless viewers and generations making of it what they will. (I’m now 50% sure I’ve already written about this blog post, which is awkward because it’s proof I’m obsessed with it.) Anyways, I really needed your recap this morning! Made my day at least 3x better because I then spent a solid 30 minutes reflecting on the film and magic and kitchens and magic and sisters and growing old together and aiden quinn and magic.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh my God, this film is the genesis of my decades long crush on Aiden Quinn. Between the floppy brown hair, dreamy eyes, flannel shirts, and picking up ladies/pushing them against walls to make out with them–long sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

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