Practical Magic: Witches Are Chicks Too
Day 2 of the #ThisChickPicks marathon is on, and I'm watching a favorite of my teenage self - Griffin Dunne's Practical Magic.
Practical Magic (1998)
If a man hits me, he only does it once.
I can't remember if I saw Practical Magic in the theater (I would have been approximately eleven), but I sure did watch the shit out of it on VHS. What I recall at the time was that witches - anything witches - was very appealing to me. And anything with a dead body come back to life was also a bonus.
This was a romantic comedy with all that. And on an adult watch (that's what I'm calling myself now - an adult), it has quite a bit more to offer than that.
Sandra Bullock was big in the mid to late '90s - Speed, The Net, While You Were Sleeping, Hope Floats. A "Women's Picture" Queen if there ever was one (though I do think that title does belongs to Miss Roberts). And she's adorably girl-next-door in this one - sorta of her thing. But I'll tell you, it's that Nicole Kidman as red-headed sister Gillian that really does something special here.
The year after Practical Magic she'd go on to costar with Cruise in Stanley Kubrick's last feature film, Eyes Wide Shut, and, well, she's excellent. Basically? It's some combination of the hair and the eyes and the way she delivers her lines in the most seductive way possible. And aren't we meant to be falling in love with the men in romantic comedies? I'm in love with gorgeous, wicked, slightly-unhinged Gilly - and I do think that's what this movie wants us to do. Love the women.
That's the beauty of Practical Magic - it's a typical rom-com with a typical fall-in-love story line, but it's not typical in how it portrays its women. Stockard Channing and Diane Wiest as the Aunts represent an ideal: a couple of single women, enjoying themselves, getting a little drunk at night, and taking care of the girls. This is the stereotypical old maid, right? If this is a cat lady's lifestyle, we admire it, and we maybe even wish to be them. The old maids are the epitome of cool. And sisterhood, the bonds between women, are not only celebrated - they're the bonds that matter most.
Gillian, the gets-herself-into-trouble type is, if anything, quite capable. Sure, she has bad taste in men (that's pointed out plenty of times), but she isn't about to let one hit her more than once. And when presented with the worst of them, she and her sister have no problem taking care of the offending ex - they kill him. Because that's what sisters are for.
Of course, the film is more about what happens after that unfortunate accident than the event itself. The sisters hide their mess (the body grows a gorgeous weed of a rosebush out in the yard) and try and get on with their lives, but you know - they can't. The law, represented in a Robert Mitchum, brooding sort of way by Aidan Quinn, catches up with them. As does the dead ex under the rosebush.
Another beautiful thing about this story? You have a strong feeling the sisters are going to get out of it - not because they're pretty, or lucky, or women. But because there is power in numbers - and they have sisters.
After drunkenly parading with midnight margaritas, the tone shifts sharply to dark (sickly dark for a movie this light). The Aunts sing the dead man, Jimmy Angelov's signature ditty - You Were Always On My Mind. It's... uncomfortable. And good.
Other Things to Notice:
Aidan Quinn is really pretty dreamy, with his mismatched eyes and the way he flips pancakes. I'm into it.
Little Kylie is played by a very young Evan Rachel Wood. Young Sally is Camilla Belle.
Does anyone else daydream about owning a bath and body shop like Sally does? And doing spells? And killing bad men and feeling minimally sorry for it? Not that last one? Okay...
If You Like it, Watch:
Birthday Girl: If you're into Kidman around this era, you'll enjoy this comedic thriller where she plays a Russian mail order bride. It's not what you'd expect, and written and directed by Jez Butterworth, a London-based playwright that changed my life with a play called Jerusalem. Also stars Vincent Cassel and Ben Chaplin.
Murder by Numbers: Sticking with the thriller theme, my Bullock suggestions leads me to this tight little crime flick. She's pretty great, but the two high school boys who get in her way are a young Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling - and they're even better.
Want in on the February Challenge?
Start with yesterday's post - All That Jazz is a Chick Flick.
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