film review

,,Practical Magic” retrospective review: A timeless film with empowering components and charming premise

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

This retrospective review contains spoilers for Practical Magic.

Practical Magic premiered in 1998 when I was only three years old. Thankfully for my future critic self, my parents made sure to take care of my film and television education. In effect, I knew the film by Griffin Dunne, based on Alice Hofman’s book, early on. As the title indicates, Practical Magic is packed with titular magic but not only — it contains an empowering narrative, highlights the importance of sisterhood, and discusses how difficult it is to walk away from domestic abuse. All of those aspects make the film still very relevant for the new generation and first-time viewers.

The film focuses on the Owens family, highlighting the relationship between two sister witches, Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman). The family also includes women’s aunts who practically raised them — Jett (Diane Wiest) and Frances (Stockard Channing). After Sally’s husband suddenly passes away due to the awful curse that lies upon the Owens women; a curse that prevents them from safely falling in love and living happily, the widow and her daughters, Antonia (Alexandra Artrip) and Kylie (Evan Rachel Wood) move back into Sally’s family manor.

But the story is more complex than that, with many elements that are less magical and more realistic, especially as one grows older and revisits the film. As the plot progresses and Gillian returns to the family home, her abusive boyfriend, Jimmy Angelov (Goran Visnjic), follows, resulting in fatal consequences — death from the poison that Sally mixes in his drink. The situation shown in the film perfectly illustrates women’s fear of not being believed, even in light of self-defense. The third act of Practical Magic then shifts from its magical (sic!) undertones to a thriller, as the criminal investigation in Jimmy Angelov’s missing case commences under the watchful (two-colored) eyes of Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn).

There’s a lot to admire about the third act, particularly when all the women in the village band together to help Gillian, who gets possessed by Jimmy’s tortured soul. Even after so many years, the sight of all the participants joining hands evokes strong emotions. Practical Magic’s premise about female strength, the damaging effect of abuse on one’s psyche, and the fight for body autonomy is still very relatable, making the film a timeless story.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

There is one another aspect of Practical Magic that makes it memorable, and it’s the issue of bullying in the film. For the sisters as well as Sally’s daughters, being raised by witches has its consequences. In effect, many times throughout the film, we observe kids yelling, “Witch, witch, you’re a bi*tch!” as well as perceive fellow parents gaslighting Sally and begrudging Gillian in their prejudice. Said aspect may be helpful for younger audience where, perhaps, some struggle with the presence of bullying at school. Thanks to its versatility, the film is perfect for everybody.

There are many memorable moments in Practical Magic — one of them illustrates young Sally (Camilla Bell) casting a spell to find a perfect love — but with a twist. She conjures virtually impossible future partner to ensure that the person doesn’t exist. But, as the film proves further through Quinn’s character, it’s quite difficult to beat the fate at its own game. Artrip and Wood are also utterly charming in the roles of Sally’s daughters.

Next to the aforementioned components, Dunne’s picture possesses a suitable and catchy soundtrack that adds to the overall atmosphere of the film, with songs from Stevie Nicks, among others. When looking further into Practical Magic’s legacy and its Rotten Tomatoes score, which still stands at 21 percent, it becomes even more unbelievable, especially given the film’s aforementioned timelessness. The audience score, on the other hand, more accurately reflects the film’s reception.

Regardless of the score, and not without the flaws, Practical Magic will still have the ability to enchant viewers that are passionate about empowerment and representation of female characters on film and tv. It may not be a film for all, but the ambiguity of opinions demonstrates the beauty of art and how different people perceive it based on their own experiences and feelings. I’ll stand by my opinion that Dunne’s adaptation is a classic position for the Halloween season and an empowering film, ideal for a group hangout and a post-film discussion on themes contained in it.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

At the very least, it’s so worth seeing Kidman, Bullock, Wiest, and Channing’s characters dancing around the kitchen and drinking “midnight margaritas” while humming Harry Nilson’s Coconut. Who knows, maybe after viewing, you’d like to apply Sally’s kind advise — 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.

Practical Magic is currently available to stream on Hulu.

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“The Prom” is Packed with Zazz, Sequins and Spectacular Designs

This review may contain spoilers to The Prom.

Edited by Toni Stanger.

When I was in high school, I didn’t take my girlfriend to the prom. Instead, I made a deal with my then best friend. I will take him to mine; he will take me to his. It wasn’t actually forbidden for me to bring my girlfriend, but it was surely frowned upon. Even when one of my friends didn’t have a partner and wanted to dance  with her female friend, my teacher didn’t think it was suitable. 

In The Prom, Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) is way braver than I was. As a young woman from a very conservative Indiana high school, the teenager fights the PTA board, led by Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington, American Son), to let her take her girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose, Hamilton), to the prom. The PTA board remains determined, however, even with the support of school principal Mr. Hawkins (Keegan Michael Key, Keanu), and the dance is completely canceled. 

Suddenly, Dee Dee Allen (Meryl StreepMamma Mia!) steps in – once a great Broadway star, today a spoiled, selfish actress who lives on unemployment checks. Together with Barry Glickman (James CordenSuperintelligence), the co-star of the canceled yet very expensive new Broadway show, as well as Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman, The Goldfinch), and Tent Oliver (Andrew Rannells, A Simple Favor) – two actors also looking for their big break – the group jumps on a bus to Indiana. Under the guise of helping Emma, the actors aim to show themselves as kind, helpful, selfless people – but everything changes when their plan is discovered, and, in the end, the actors find themselves determined to give Emma the best inclusive prom.

The Prom, created by Ryan Murphy (Ratched, The Boys in The Band), a veteran of everything campy, is packed with zazz, sequins, self-love, and everything that shines – including a five-star cast. The new Netflix original is based on the Broadway musical by Matthew Sklar and a book by Bob Martin with the same title. The production is utterly sweet and uplifting. The audience receives an interesting encounter between precocious actors and a young woman who just wants to be accepted for who she is. If you’re afraid you’ll only see LGBTQ+ characters being mistreated by self-absorbed characters who believe they’re the world’s moon and stars, don’t be. Murphy balances it exceptionally and, in the second act, displays the possibility of change and making amends. 


Everything about the set design is spectacular. The creators use every surface they can possibly use and create an atmosphere of the prom that we, as an audience, can really feel. It may bring a little bit of nostalgia for older audiences and a breath of fresh air for youngsters. Lou Eyrich, the costume designer who has worked with Murphy plenty of times (most recently on Ratched), has outdone herself in creating the characters’ costumes. Each person, be it Dee Dee, Angie, or Barry, screams sequins and glitter. Simultaneously, despite the use of the same materials such as said glitter, each outfit reflects the personality of the character. Dee Dee’s attributes are shawls; meanwhile, Angie loves a soft, flat hat, typically with a visor. One of my favorite outfits is Emma’s modern baby-blue suit in the final scene. In pair with Alyssa’s shiny prom dress, the sapphic duo becomes a powerhouse and charms the audience in front of the TVs and the rest of the cast. 

The performances in The Prom wary from dizzying to just okay. Streep’s Dee Dee is stunning. As the actress who needs to re-learn how to be humble, she’s mostly paired with Key’s Hawkins. The school principal has been a long-time fan of Dee Dee’s work, but suddenly the man clashes with the reality of her “tarnished brand.” After always idolising her, Hawkins realizes she’s truly a spoilt brat. The newcomer, Pellman, is absolutely spectacular. My personal favorite song is her performance of Zazz. In a singing duet with Nicole Kidman’s Angie, both actresses are unstoppable, dancing on the stairs and emanating the titular zazz. 


Each song, written by Chad Beguelin, has a contemporary feel that perfectly fits Emma’s situation. One of my other favorites, besides Zazz, is Love Thy Neighbor by Rannells in the mall scene, and Unruly Heart sang by Pellman’s character in a highly emotional scene that’s also a standout song/performance. Emma ultimately decides to come forward and address the discrimination she faced in her high school. While the teenager sings the song, the audience can see all the people from the LGBTQ+ community watching the video, and discover how the words and the voice affect them. Further into the plot, we see some of them again during an inclusive prom organized by the film characters for Emma. 

In the opposite corner, there is Mrs. Greene, the leader of the PTA board and the loudest opponent of Emma’s “life choices.” Kerry Washington gives a great performance as a conservative yet caring mother. The actress touches the viewers’ hearts when her on-screen daughter, Alyssa, excellently portrayed by DeBose, comes out to her. We obtain a very relevant and profoundly personal moment that is deeply authentic. Instead of hate or exaggerated optimism, we observe one parent’s very coherent reaction in which there is a promise of further serious talks yet evident acceptance.

The person who doesn’t feel right here is Corden. Although he really tries and repeatedly shows it, the actor and talk show host feels off when amongst other cast members. Barry’s character, a gay man who never got a chance to go to the prom, is exaggerated in the negative sense of the word. The idea is touching; however, Corden misplaces his attention, and, in effect, the audience misses out on a great character that was first introduced in the Broadway musical.

The Prom is a heartwarming picture with catchy songs that will make you smile. At the same time, it’s a brutal reminder of the world we live in. While we may move forward in regards to LGBTQ+ rights, there are still places in the world and in the United States of America where teenagers from the community face homophobia and bullying because of who they are. It’s a quite sobering reflection that is needed. 


The musical also reminds us how crucial and life-changing coming out can be. A similar theme could be seen in Hulu’s recent Happiest Season, the new holiday rom-com directed by Clea DuVall. The film caused a very torn discourse in social media revolving around coming-out stories, and there is a possibility that it may happen with The Prom. However, it’s worth remembering that although times are slowly changing, modern adolescents have to see these stories as well. Young people deserve to see coming-out stories that are contemporary and suitable for today’s wide, complicated world. And that’s what The Prom does. 

The Prom is something we really need right now, especially as this turbulent year is nearing its end. The spectacular cast does their best as singers, dancers, and actors. Even with a few hiccups, it provides a great time for the family. Its uplifting, entertaining narrative, combined with the moving message, will make your heart warm. Catchy songs will be stuck in your head, but it’s Emma’s storyline that will let you rethink the world that we live in and make you realize that we, as a society, still have a long way to go in terms of tolerance. 

The Prom will be available to stream on December 11th on Netflix.