Practical Magic is a seminal film for women of a certain age. The 1998 film—based on the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman—is a cult classic, adored by those who found solace in the alchemy of feminine power and spell-casting. The film stars Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as Sally and Gillian Owens, a pair of sister witches whose magical family is terribly cursed: Any Owens woman who falls in love with a man will lose him tragically. In a world where love is—quite literally—a curse, the Owens women use their magic to break free of that which holds them back. That’s a message any woman can get behind, and is why the story continues to endure, 20 years after its initial release.
Lucky for us, the Practical Magic legacy is about to continue in the form of a new HBO series, based on Hoffman’s prequel novel, The Rules of Magic. The story follows the aunts, Frances and Jet (played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest in the film), and their brother, Vincent, as they navigate life in 1960s New York City. Each go on different paths of self discovery, making this a coming-of-age story similar to the original. (And yes, you can come of age later in life, too.)
We’re fascinated by the prospect of a new story set in this world, and we have some ideas of things we’d like to see. Here are five things we hope to see in The Rules of Magic.
More Owens family lore
We know about the curse, but we don’t know where it originated or who first cast it on the poor Owens women. All we know is that it’s plagued their family for centuries. If the show plans to go back to the 1960s, we hope it also delves into the mythology of the curse—maybe with more flashbacks, like the one that opens the 1998 film. We’d also love to learn more about Sally and Gillian’s parents. They would be alive during this timeline, so it would make sense to weave them into the story for a bit of bonus familiarity. How did they meet and what truly became of them? (The original film is scant on details.) We don’t need the show to fill in too many blanks—that’s when things start to border on needless fan service—but we’d love insights that deepen the story.
Spells, spells, spells
While the original film touches briefly on magic, we’re not entirely sure what kind of witches the Owens are. Is it merely genetic, or are they practicing Wiccans whose powers grow as their knowledge in the craft grows? The film seems to do a little bit of both, showing the girls as children learning new tricks. But we’d love to see a more introspective look at how magic works in this universe, as well as even more spells. We know the Owens know how to bring back the dead—at a terrible cost—but what else can they do? Any elaboration would be welcome. More magic is never a bad thing!
OK, we’re cheating on the “pointless fan service” with this one, because let’s face it: the midnight margarita scene from the 1998 film is arguably the movie’s most memorable moment. We learn that it’s a family tradition to get drunk at the crack of midnight and dance around to Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut,” and it’s so splendid that I’m sure any Practical Magic fan has tried to emulate the scene at least once or twice. It’d be great to see the sisters partake in this activity at least once in the new season, so long as it feels organic to the story. It’s not mere fan service if it’s an established tradition, so it would almost be worse to not include it.
We know the series is set in the 1960s, so there’s no doubt it will be full of gorgeous fashion from the era. But we do hope it maintains some of the aesthetic appeal of the ’90s movie. The lush costumes and production design are a large part of our nostalgia for the story, and though they needn’t be replicated, finding something that fits into that visual style would be ideal. We also wouldn’t mind a trip or two to the house we see in the original; it’s every witchy woman’s ideal abode, and feels like a character unto itself. It’s presumably a family estate, so it would make sense to see it in this version.
A emphasis on the women
While we’re excited to meet Vincent and see how magic is represented from a male perspective in the Practical Magic universe, we do hope the show is careful to maintain the original film’s positive message of feminism. There are so many representations of womanhood in the original film: Sally’s family traditionalism, Gillian’s fierce sexuality and independence, the single aunts with their beautiful house, the women of the PTA who eschew their biases and come together in the name of sisterhood in the end. That feeling of “stronger together than apart” is such a powerful thing for women to see, that we can only hope the Owens women have a strong female support group in The Rules of Magic.
Header Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures