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Practical Magic (1988)

Directed by Griffin Dunne Novel by Alice Hoffman Screenplay by Adam BrooksAkiva Goldsman & Robin Swicord

   Whenever choosing a film for Valentine’s Day, one may not register this off the top of their head. Though Alice Hoffman stated that to her the ultimate magic was love; finding that it rarely (if ever) made sense, much like magic. Griffin Dunne saying his interest in the script lay with it being as though a cauldron of emotions. Things beginning to fall in place soon after, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman each showing interest in the roles. Though Kidman had been currently filming with Stanley Kubrick. After initially hearing of the pairing, Dunne was unable to think of anyone else for the roles and sent her pages as they were completed to keep her interest. The approach to the magic also being, well, practical for lack of a better term. Most women can attest to having intuition kick in at some point in their life. Whether hearing their child’s voice from an impossible distance or getting a feeling of something happening before it does. Whatever the case may be, it’s all a bit of magic.

The approach with this film being to make “tasteful” witches who weren’t hokey but able to tap into a gift their family possessed. The tones and colors of the film being somewhat earthy (go figure) with the house acting as a main player. Meaning they would have to build it themselves and choose a Victorian theme; because that’s the house witches reside in. Okay, maybe not, but it’s just better when they do. The problem being that while they were able to build the house (shooting interiors separately), they weren’t able to break ground due to the property resting on a burial ground. The next condition being that they had to tear it down before they left (despite many offers to buy) and had it leveled after their last day of shooting.

While the story ends on a rather love-ly note, it also concerns the ostracism that comes with being perceived as different. At the center, two women who have yet to fully embrace and understand their gifts. As with any good love story, it must also begin with some cursed nature. Which began over 200 years ago when their relative Maria was condemned for being a witch. Forced alone on an island to give birth to her child, she cursed any man who dare love an Owen’s woman. Sally (Bullock) and Gillian (Kidman) resided with Aunt’s Frances (Stockard Channing) and Bridget (Dianne Wiest) after their mother died of a broken heart. Sally finding the best solution being to create a spell called “Amas Veritas,” that would ensure she could never die of such if the person she dreamt up didn’t exist.

But Sally’s aunts take it upon them self to give her a little push in allowing love to happen. Resulting in a marriage and two children within the next three years. Michael, (Mark Feuerstein) soon meeting his fate once the deathwatch beetle beckoned for him. Life after bringing change as it’s decided her children would never do magic and she moves them back in with her relatives. Life going back to children using the same taunt against her children, Kylie (Evan Rachel Wood) and Antonia (Alexandra Artrip) and saving her sister from her latest mistake, Jimmy Angelov (Goran Visnjic). But after using a bit too much Belladonna than allotted, is forced to return to the house and use the darker side of the Craft to bring him back. Forced to kill him “a couple of times” and burying the evidence while going on as though nothing happened. But when Jimmy’s spirit begins leaving trails in the form of toads, the aunts suggest cleaning up their own mess and leave for a short while to ensure such. Disrupted by Officer Gary Hallet, (Aidan Quinn) involved to investigate in Jimmy’s disappearance, finding himself entranced by Sally with his need to assist her unlike anything ever felt before.

Clearly the movie is aimed at women; or any cool cats out there interested in the realm of magic. Though it does offer more than just your typical “Rom-Com” formula adding in murder, the importance of sisterhood and how to be proud of whatever gifts we each posses. Dunne had mentioned the film seemed a bit too girly for him at times, having different takes that were a bit darker (concerning Jimmy’s death). But making the choice to stray from any “ugly” or “overly gross” special effects; what they ended up using was more effective. While an earlier scene displays Sally using this method, Bullock stated it was Evan Rachel Wood’s idea to turn on the candles when preparing for their séance later in the film. Otherwise not being too flashy nor sparingly. *MF: While sitting at the table for the drinking scene, they were actually drunk off a bottle of cheap Tequila Nicole had provided.

The appeal being that it doesn’t try to be just one thing. Even with all the elements thrown in, they each worked perfectly together and Griffin was able to Direct a surprisingly strong film that works up to the ending appropriately. While also staying true to where we wanted the characters to end up. Each Actress had a great delivery in their lines and the pairings of the Owen’s Women perfectly complimented the other. Though our male Actors were certainly no slacks. Aidan brought about the all around, wholesome good guy bravado that he does so well. With Goran’s role originally written for a Texas man by the name of Jimmy Hawkins. But combining with his barely there English and a “Vampire Cowboy” look that is always aesthetically pleasing. Also pairing quite adequately with the soundtrack if your able to give it a listen.

But alas, a love story I claimed it to be and that it is. While I won’t say too much on the matter, Officer Gary is summoned due to a letter that Sally had written to Gillian. Unaware of what it was about her but sure that everything else faded into the background when in her presence. So periodically it may seem like he’s temporarily forgotten what he’s there to do but his surroundings are sure to snap him back. The interaction between him and Bullock being absolutely adorable. Overall the kind of film you can enjoy any day of the year but makes for a far better choice than the same tired and overused flicks you may be too used to.