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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

An Ode to Practical Magic (1998)

The first film I watched this Autumn was Practical Magic. It has an intensity to it that places it somewhere between thriller, romance, comedy, and horror for me (you all know the scene I’m talking about.)

Sisters perform a ritual on a dead man

In 1998, Practical Magic hit theaters, and ever since, it’s helped define how a generation thinks about the intersection of femininity and witchcraft (along with The Craft.) Practical Magic was written by Alice Hoffman, Robin Swicord, and Akiva Goldsman. It’s based on a novel by Alice Hoffman. It was directed by Griffin Dunne.

For me, Practical Magic conjures up an ideal version of friendship, family, and looking at the world with a sense of wonder. I always feel drawn to spend time with my sister, mother, and friends after a viewing. There is something magical about the way Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman’s characters support each other, fight for each other, and laugh together through it all. I also often feel inspired to plant flowers, bake for loved ones, and make a bit pitcher of margaritas.

Sandra Bullock lights a candle

Everything doesn’t work out for our leading ladies in this film, but the lesson we are left with is more about the people who help you navigate life vs. ending up with a perfect one. Not to say that Practical Magic isn’t a romantic version of life; of course it is. It’s a movie. And the dreamy soundtrack composed of iconic 90s hits like This Kiss, only drives that point further home.

It’s surprising to me that Practical Magic has such a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems most of the critique is centered around the film being too ‘syrupy’ or ‘cute.’ But I would venture that the characters and the sisterhood deserve more credit than that. Or perhaps I am feeling defensive of the film because I am a child of the 90s and someone who is actively into Witchcraft; who is to say?

Sisters in the kitchen

I can understand that Practical Magic isn’t for everyone. But it feels squarely for me. Even without supernatural abilities, I can related to the ritual of making margaritas and dancing around the kitchen. Maybe my version of that is taking a longer walk to work to make time to grab a latte, or sending a post card to a friend. Carving out time for the seemingly little or mundane things, and adding a layer of ritualism to them that almost feels spiritual.

Last October, I included Practical Magic on a list of non-horror films to watch in Autumn. Beyond all the woo woo stuff, with aesthetic alone this film will shift you into the fall mindset.

Women dressed as witches prepare to jump off of a roof

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