In my past few Alex Makes Art posts I’ve mentioned an etsy customer who’s commissioned me to make some prints for her. She has a lot of different films and tv shows and musicians she’d like art for, which is exciting, but also it means I have some properties to see if I’m not familiar with them already! I can tell she likes fantasy/witch-related stories from some of her choices, so I got to check out Practical Magic and The Witches of Eastwick as sort of prep-work for the designs. Wouldn’t this be the perfect job? Watching movies as research and then just making art for them? Jeez. Dream life right there, I’m realizing. Anyway. (Commission me!)
Based on the novel by Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic tells the story of the Owens women, a clan who dates back to Salem as known for their witchcraft. They’re nice people, typically, but cursed to suffer if they ever fall in love- their significant others always die. Sisters Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) are orphaned at a young age and grow up with their wacky aunts (Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest). Sally is a practical homebody affected by the curse after several years of marriage and two daughters. Gillian is a world-tripping free spirit who brings horror to her childhood home when her abusive boyfriend is accidentally killed and then kind of brought back as a zombie.
This movie was certainly not what I expected, I’ll say that! There’s a lot more… murder? The cast is great, and includes appearances from Aidan Quinn and Margo Martindale! I do typically enjoy witch/fantasy-type stories in general, so the magical shenanigans going on are cool to me, and I liked the sisterly camaraderie theme and goofy antics of Channing and Wiest. Plus it has these unexpected dark moments that were a nice surprise. So much is going on here, though. That is not necessarily a bad thing, it just felt scattered overall. Several years pass, multiple stories are told, and there isn’t much cohesion from beginning to end. I can see this working as a book, with more time to deal with all the plot lines and better develop certain characters and narratives. Plus it gets too cheesy at times.
Also did you guys know this was directed by Griffin Dunne? I had no idea he’d directed several movies (mostly romantic comedy-types) over the years. The more you know.
The Witches of Eastwick had been vaguely on my radar for a while, mainly I knew it as a witchy movie with Jack Nicholson and several famous ladies and that it had a hilariously-named porn parody called The Witches of Breastwick. Hehehe. Turns out it’s a pretty weird and ambiguous comedy-thriller based on a book by John Updike. What? I know. Nicholson plays the sleazy but magnetic Daryl Van Horne, a new resident in the quiet American suburb of Eastwick. He romances three best friends who turn out to have magic powers when they work together. Alex (Cher) is a strong-willed widow/mom/sculptor, Jane (Susan Sarandon) is a recently-divorced, downtrodden music teacher, and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a hardworking reporter and mother of 6 (I think? There were always a ton of kids surrounding her, I never counted) whose husband deserted her.
This is a strange movie, totally not what I was expecting. Parts of it are awesome: big, nay- HUGE- 80s hair, strong and sexy ladies, free love, levitating, and a pretty rad climax with magic and feathers and lingerie and ice cream and demon transformation. I thought the idea of three approaching-middle-age women who find their true strengths after losing their men interesting, especially since magic powers were involved. But in truth most of this film didn’t really make much sense to me, it is totally all over the place with its narrative and its messages. I’m all for sexual liberation and whatnot, but it seemed to me that a premise involving three women who are clearly manipulated by some demonic asshole, who basically gets his way in the end (he wanted kids to prolong his evil line or whatever) despite physical defeat, and then showing at least one of those women still pining for him even after learning he’s some kind of psychotic devil, is self-defeating. I know it’s a comedy, but it’s still a backwards message. And their magical-ness is never explained or even fully explored, so not sure what’s going on there.
Also this movie has way too much throwing up. Like, at one point I was trying to eat a pizza. Then I had to stop because watching the film was too gross. Goddamn cherry vomit everywhere. Poor Veronica Cartwright! Her character was dumped on the entire movie, poor thing. And her ability to figure out Van Horne’s plot was never even explained, come to think of it. Oh well. Anyway this movie was ok.
Also also: It’s directed by George Miller, like the Mad Max guy. He also made Babe and the Happy Feet movies. What is with this?