The Crushed Film Festival presents: Practical Magic
The Movie: Practical Magic
The Crush Object: Goran Visnjic
The Story: Sally and Gillian Owens (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, respectively) struggle with their family legacy. Not only do they come from a long line of witches, which sees them ostracized in their tiny seaside town, but their ancestor, Maria, put a curse on the men who would fall in love with Owenses: the clicking of the deathwatch beetle means death to husbands and lovers (well, male ones; the obvious Sapphic solution to the problem isn't explored).
The inevitable demise of their father — and their mother's subsequent death of heartbreak — meant that Sally and Gilly were largely raised by their eccentric aunts Jet and Frances (Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing, both extremely charming despite laboring under 49 pounds of hair extensions each), but while the aunts took a magic-positive, chocolate-for-breakfast approach to the situation, the girls grow into women with a troubled relationship to their powers. Sally falls in love, gets married, and has two daughters with Michael (Mark Feuerstein), only to hear the beetle and lose the "normal" life she always craved; Gilly hits the road, only using her magic to lure, or control, the various unsuitable men that come into her life.
When Sally moves back in with her aunts and Gilly finds more trouble than she bargained for with Jimmy Angelo (Visnjic), they use magic to solve the problem — only to create a much bigger, more zombie-esque one by toying with the dark arts. They'll have to face down their inheritance, the monkey's-paw trouble they've gotten themselves into — and the embodiment of a spell Sally cast many years ago.
Practical Magic isn't the kind of movie I would see on its own merits; it would have to have at least one formidable cutie in it, and PM's menu of three options (depending on how you feel about Aidan Quinn — I signed on with Reckless back in the day) qualifies it. But it holds up on its own, too, with likable performances from all the leads; it's Kidman at her most zesty, before she retreated into the current preserve of capital-I Important roles where she now sits, doll-like, watery-blonde, staring. The 1998 fashion is kind of fun, too: all those square-neck tank tops, paisley maxi-skirts, and clonky block heels.
The script and direction have moments of clonk — Margo Martindale's climactic "Let's clean house" is delivered and edited strangely, and the ongoing "be yourself" motif vis-à-vis magic is superfluous. It's also unclear why, if they have such a tight sisterly bond, Gilly didn't show up for Sally and Michael's wedding, or for Michael's funeral. Only in movies do siblings who are supposed to like each other not show up for shit like that.
Overall, though, it's cute and well acted; Wiest and Channing have several lovely moments, both in throwaway jokes and the touching regret they feel when Sally begs them to bring Michael back and they have to refuse. Chloe Webb is underused, but it's always nice to see her, and for those of you who, like me, obsess over copying elements of set design, there's a lot of fun vintage stuff to look at in the background.
The Backstory: Goran Visnjic. End of story.
…Welllll, not quite — not in this case. I've sat through a fair amount of shite for five minutes of that guy (see: Rounders, a future CFF installment), but the issue here isn't that the movie sucks and he's hardly in it. It's that, in every scene, he's either a creepy, abusive alcoholic…or he's a creepy, abusive undead alcoholic. Who wears leather vests and is obsessed with Elvis. Bah.
I don't regret it, but only because the movie is pretty good. Visnjic is just a greezy mess.
The Embarrassment Level: Point five. Visnjic, while nasty here, is reasonable grounds for watching a bad movie — which, though it's not my genre, this actually isn't.
Tags: Aidan Quinn Chloe Webb Dianne Wiest don't wear that ever again famous boyfriends Goran Visnjic Margo Martindale Mark Feuerstein movies Nicole Kidman Sandra Bullock Stockard Channing The Crushed Film Festival