I've become a "sort of" Sandra Bullock fan over time without intending to be. I have never set out automatically to see something merely because she's in it.
But when I've seen her in comedies, she always seems the ideal actress for light & fluffy films -- films that may be overall inconsequential, but her presence makes them successful.
In While You Were Sleeping (1995) the family of a man who is in a coma (Peter Gallagher) mistakenly believes Bullock was his fiancee, an error she encourages, being of a perverse nature & formerly very lonely & enjoying basking in the warmth of their sympathy & sorrow.
But she soon has to deal with being attracted to the unconscious man's brother (Bill Pullman). What would otherwise have been an easy romance for the two of them is complicated by the lie that launched her association with the family.
This rather sicko premise is treated as cutesy & sweet, & Bullock is endearing enough to make us believe she is indeed cutesy rather than sociopathic to be sucking at the emotions of a family struggling with a catastrophe. And as a demented comedy it's an improvement over most non-demented comedies.
She also captured some of the innocent fun of light romantic comedies of the past in Love Potion No. 9 (1992), which was the first film that made me think Sandra Bullock should never try to be a serious dramatic actress; she shines only when doing comedy.
The script is literally built around its titular pop tune which begins "I took my problems down to Madame Rue/ You know that gypsy with the wild tattoo/ She's got a pad down on forty-first & vine/ Selling little bottles of -- love potion number 9."
Paul (Tate Donovan) is a complete geek who gets the sad news from a fortune teller (Ann Bancroft) that there really isn't apt to be a woman in his future. Trying to help him change his fate, she gives him a sample of her love potion.
As a scientist he doesn't intend to even try the potion, but when his tom cat laps at it, every female cat in the neighborhood comes calling.
Assisted by fellow dork & scientist Diane (Bullock), they do a lab analysis of the potion, & are able to duplicate it. Their work together causes them to fall in love, but the potion opens up a broader world of conquest & truly gets in the way of the total acceptance of who they are with each other.
There are plenty of twists & turns in the plot to make the sci-fi comedy gangbusters for holding one's attention, but the real magic of the piece Bullock's comedic ability & her skill at being by turns a frizzle-hair dork & a slinky sexy babe.
Sandra Bullock's witchcraft tale Practical Magic (1998) is mostly a comedy but at least partially a supernatural thriller, loosely based on a novel of the same name by the very gifted Alice Hoffman.
Orphaned when small, Sally (Sandra) & her sister Gillian (Nicole Kidman) were raised by witchy aunts to be witches. These aunties are played by Stockard Channing & Dianne Wiest, who only barely restrain themselves from stealing every scene they're in, & would be the most wonderful of foster parents for anyone to have.
Due to a family curse that goes back to witch persecution days, the men whom Owens women love always die in one or another horrible manner, & do so while young. Sally & Gillian set out in their varied ways to defeat the never before defeated curse & find lasting true love.
Gillian is a firebrand with, to say the least, with imperfect taste in men; one of her worst choices (Goran Visnjic) ends up buried in the garden & even then won't stop causing horrific grief.
Sally, the quiet one, as played by Bullock manages somehow to dominate the film without being antic. She has much better instincts about men (Aiden Quinn), & what a shame if he becomes the latest one is taken down by the curse. Or decides to arrest her for murder for that matter.
The humor is just on the side of adult but not in a raunchy way so it's okay to treat it as a family film. It'll be more interesting for adult viewers but captivating enough for the young, too, thanks to the presence of the third generation of witches, Evan Rachel Wood & Chloe Wood as Sally's daughters.
There's a moment when Sally's older daughter sees the evil spirit by the rosebush that sprang up overnight that is truly chilling. Practical Magic comes off as occasionally hip, surprisingly sexy, & just spooky enough it ought to hold dad's or the boyfriends' interest even if they tend to deplore chickflicks; they'll make an exception for this one I'm sure.
Compared to other woman-dominated witchcraft films like the The Craft (1996), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Hocus Pocus (1993), or the television series Charmed, all of which tend to be flamboyant to the point of moronic, this one approaches subtlety. Practical Magic conveys believably how women might live & act & pass undetected if such supernatural powers, & that restricting curse, were part of their everyday existence.
There's charm & intelligence & enough suspense to keep it from being too much of a light romance, yet romantic enough to tug the heart to the proper degree. And once again, it's Sandra Bullock who makes material that might've been, with other performers, too ordinary or too slight, come off as human & appealing.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl