Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
A rather confused storyline but star power pulls through
on 17 March 2003
This film made me really want to go and read the book, mainly because you can tell that the book has a lot of plot. But then it was written by Alice Hoffmann, so it would, and her writing still shines through in the characters, despite the rather clumsy script.
Beautifully shot in New England, with customary Neo-Gothic House, 'Practical Magic' is at heart a film about sisters: Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman). The opening credits are well shot, although I was personally annoyed at Maria: surely she knew enough about bigotry by then to AVOID something like that? Anyway, the women descended from her all inherit some sort of magical talent, for which they are naturally despised by the small-minded inhabitants of their local village/town. However, as always, the talent comes with a price: any man an Owens woman loves is bound to die (no spoiler, this is explained during the opening credits).
Fast forward to the present, where Sally and Gillian are the girls who suffer under this bigotry, whilst being taught by Aunts Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Weist) the arts of white witchcraft. Fast forward again to their adulthood where they try and build what they consider 'normal' lives. Sally, the more talented one, suppresses her background and tries to live happily ever after with a husband and two little girls of her own (who also happen to be a brunette and a redhead). Gillian travels across the USA having a string of lovers. However, all good times must come to an end, as we're not even halfway through the film. Sally's husband kicks the bucket, predictably, and Gillian runs into trouble, as must all loose-living women in the form of a handsome but rather dangerous 'vampire-cowboy' called Jimmy (Goran Visnic). Needless to say, she calls on Sally to get her out of this, but things do not go according to plan. The sisters accidentally kill him using belladonna, bring him back, kill him again and bury him, but Jimmy doesn't stay dead. Meanwhile, an out-of-state policeman (Aidan Quinn) comes visiting and he just happens to look like Sally's ideal man that she dreamt up when she was a little girl, even though her daughters recognise this before she does. Coincidence? Please.
As stated, the storyline is confusing, and the focus reflects this, but Bullock and Kidman are wonderful. Bullock is honest but tormented as Sally, who just wants to fit in, despite her Aunt's admonition that 'Being normal is not necessarily a good thing, rather it denotes a lack of courage'. Kidman shows shades of her recent role as Satine in Gillian, flamboyant and devil-may-care yet insecure underneath her femme-fatale façade, envious of her sister's power yet not recognising her own. Channing and Weist are funny and brilliant when they're on screen (bigger parts would have been better). Quinn is a perfect match for Bullock's honesty and warmth, and Visnic does as well as anyone could when your role is a zombie serial killer.
The ending is heartwarming, but also rather confusing. When the hell did the small-minded townsfolk suddenly start supporting the Owens? Background is lost in the speed of the film, but it still makes a nice watch if you're looking for a film that's got some information on witchcraft and great stars for either sexuality.