I Watched ‘Practical Magic’ for the First Time in 10 Years and It’s So Different Than I Remembered
Wait, *that's* what the plot was actually about?
When I watched Practical Magic for the first time, I was in high school. I was at a friend’s house with two others, and in between our dance parties and gossip, one of them suggested watching a 1998 movie about love, spells, and sisterhood. At the time, I didn’t quite understand why the film was beloved by so many—heck, I hadn’t even known it existed until my friend brought it up. All I knew was that it sounded kind of cool. Little did I realize that watching the movie together that afternoon would become one of my fondest memories to date.
To be honest, I don’t remember much about the plot of Practical Magic now, years later. I know that I liked it, and that my friends and I had such a great time watching it that we had a 30-minute laugh sesh and did some witch-like activities afterwards, as if a spell was cast upon us. I also remember feeling connected with my friends in a way that women with sisters probably feel—and it was magic.
But as the years went by, I never returned to this spell-binding film. There was no particular reason why—it just never came up. (Hey, life as an adult can get busy!) However, when I found out that today, October 16th, was the 22nd anniversary of Practical Magic, I took it as an excuse to rewatch the movie as a 31-year-old to see how it’s held up over the past many years. Below are my thoughts. Warning: spoilers ahead (but it’s been out forever, so go watch it!).
The plot actually has nothing to do with a dead ex-boyfriend
One of the things I felt sure I remembered from this film before rewatching was how it revolved around two sisters, Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman), burying an ex-boyfriend in the backyard. I thought this was the whole premise, but after seeing Practical Magic again, I realized it’s definitely not the focal point. Whoops.
Yes, while the deadbeat (pun intended) ex is the villain of the movie and causes a lot of stress between the sisters, the film’s true plot is about the connection (with or without magic), trust, and love the sisters have for one another. As a high schooler with no real understanding of feminism and sisterhood (I have three older brothers), this went over my head, but as an adult who believes in supporting women, especially during their hardest moments in life, the theme resonated with me.
From the start, the sisters support each other through everything—and never try to force the other to do something that they don’t want to. When Gillian throws her belongings over the balcony of her aunt’s house to run off with a guy, Sally doesn’t try to force her to change her mind. And when Sally is depressed and filled with grief after losing her husband, Gillian lays beside her in bed until she knows Sally is ready to hear, “Well, you’ll never forgive yourself unless you get up, and you get dressed, and you brush your goddamn teeth because your breath stinks—and you take care of those little girls.”
Each sister knows that the other has to learn lessons on their own but never stays too far away and gives support when needed. There’s something really charming and romantic about this sisterly love—and I think it’s the best relationship in the movie (sorry, Sally and Detective Hallett).
The ’90s soundtrack is truly the best
As a person who grew up in the ’90s, it can sometimes be hard to remember exactly how odd yet magical the music of that era was. I mean, this was the decade when boy bands were born yet also when “Barbie Girl” by Aqua emerged. You get my point?
Before my Practical Magic rewatch, I had completely forgotten how many goldmines from the ’90s were on the movie’s soundtrack. From Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” to Stevie Nicks’ “If You Ever Did Believe,” it’s hard not to get carried away with the tunes even while watching the two sisters try to lie to a cop about the accidental murder of an ex-boyfriend.
The aunts need a spinoff movie
Look, I’m not saying that Sally and Gillian’s story isn’t worth a sequel (even Kidman said she would be down to do one), but what I am saying is that Aunt Frances and Aunt Bridget “Jet” Owens need—no, deserve!—their own movie or miniseries, too. Why? I’m so glad you asked.
First, they are bad bitches—ahem—witches. The minute they get a sense that Gillian and Sally are up to no good after drinking tequila all night long, they inquire about what’s going on (“It’s a very distant smell. It’s the smell of bullshit”). Then, they straight-up leave when Sally says, “We had a problem, and we fixed it.” This is so their nieces can learn from their mistakes, rather than have their aunts come to the rescue every time. These women set boundaries, even with family.
But when Sally and Gillian need them the most, the aunts listen to their instincts and come back to the house to help. They let their nieces do what they have to do to grow and learn, and then step in when it’s time. Frances and Jet prove that while you can do things on your own, family—at least most of the time—will provide support and comfort during the toughest moments.
The thing is, the aunts know how to live life to the fullest—and they’ve been through enough loss (poor Ethan and the girls’ mother) to learn that grief, sorrow, and mistakes shouldn’t be questioned or shamed. Instead, they shower the people they love with kindness (chocolate cake for breakfast, anyone?) and celebrate the little things in life (hello, midnight margaritas). Plus, anyone who responds with, “We’d never tell them nonsense, dear” after being told, “I don’t want you filling [my children’s] heads with any of your nonsense, okay?” is a winner in my book.
The central message is more powerful than you might remember
I think what I loved most about rewatching Practical Magic is the conversation that’s had throughout on how it’s actually a good thing to be different than others. Yes, being the same as everyone else may make life easier to navigate because you are fitting into a societal norm. But the Owens family never requires this of anyone; rather, they encourage individuality. And in a neighborhood where people hide their children’s faces from the witches as they walk down the street—or are quick with assumptions because they already believe that the witches are evil, due to their culture and history—the Owens still emphasize freedom, choice, and kindness.
Early on, for instance, Gillian reminds Sally, “You spend all your energy trying to fit in, be normal! But you’ll never fit in. Because we’re different! And so are your girls.” And when Sally begins to question herself, Detective Hallett tells her, “Curses only have power when you believe in them. And I don’t. You know what? I wished for you, too”—meaning if you allow external factors (whether people, work, or things simply out of your control) to dictate your perception and the choices you make, you’ll never find freedom and truth in your life. You will live in the shadows of others, and your fears can and will hinder you from living life to the fullest. And what a waste that would be.
So before you give in to others by trying to fit in, do what the Owens family does and, instead, “Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Plant lavender for luck. And fall in love whenever you can.” Everything else is completely up to you.