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Life Kit host Marielle Segarra is really into 'Practical Magic'

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Need some joy in your life, a break from thinking about what to cook for dinner or which bills are due? NPR's I'm Really Into series is here to help. Here's Marielle Segarra, host of NPR's Life Kit. She has been queuing up the 1998 movie "Practical Magic" just about every fall since she was 9 years old.

MARIELLE SEGARRA, BYLINE: "Practical Magic" takes place in New England, and most of the action happens in this gorgeous old house on a cliffside. Sunlight trickles through glass window panes into the house, where the occupants grow herbs for their spells and light candles by blowing on them. Those occupants are witches, of course - two sisters named Sally, played by Sandra Bullock, and Gillian, played by Nicole Kidman, as well as their aunts, played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest.

As a young girl, I watched these women through dreamy, wide eyes. They were strong. They were powerful. And they were playful. They ate chocolate cake for breakfast. They frolicked naked under the full moon. They blended up margaritas at midnight and danced around the kitchen in their pajamas.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRACTICAL MAGIC")

SANDRA BULLOCK AND NICOLE KIDMAN: (As Sally and Gillian Owens) Midnight margaritas.

SEGARRA: I remember watching it with a friend one October during my sophomore year of high school. I'm pretty sure we were watching a VHS tape, and the resolution was super grainy. And then the scene came on. After a buildup of significant sexual tension, two characters share a passionate kiss. Sitting on my friend's bedroom floor, I got butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to be kissed like that. But as a girl, Sally, Sandra Bullock's character, does not feel the same way. In fact, she's so determined to never fall in love that she casts a true love spell, except she conjures up an image of a man who doesn't exist. He can ride a pony backwards.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRACTICAL MAGIC")

CAMILLA BELLE: (As young Sally) He can flip pancakes in the air. He'll be marvelously kind. His favorite shape will be a star. And he'll have one green eye and one blue.

SEGARRA: Her logic is that if this man doesn't exist, she'll never fall in love, and she'll never have a broken heart. But when Sally gets older, the aunts secretly cast their own spell that allows her to find romance. That's how she meets the man who becomes her husband, Michael. She sends her sister this letter from the height of bliss.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRACTICAL MAGIC")

SANDRA BULLOCK: (As Sally Owens) Dear Gillian, today's our third anniversary. And all I have to show for it are two beautiful little girls and a husband I just can't stop kissing. I don't even mind the beard.

SEGARRA: And then he dies, thanks to a freaking curse. And she's devastated. This movie introduced me to the idea that loving someone so much is risky. But that's not the only lesson I learned. There's an unbreakable bond between Sally and her sister, Gillian. When Michael dies and Sally is deeply depressed and can't get out of bed, Gillian crawls under the covers with her. And they lay there together and talk for what seems like hours. Her presence allows Sally the space to open up.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRACTICAL MAGIC")

BULLOCK: (As Sally Owens) I was really, really happy.

SEGARRA: It can be heartbreaking to say out loud just how much a loss hurts, but it's one of the first steps in healing. And it often comes only after someone has done you the kindness of sitting with you in your grief.

I rewatched "Practical Magic" the other day with one of my best friends. She came over, and we laid under a blanket on my couch with a candle lit. This friend is like a sister to me. She's been a steady presence in my life, in times of joy and also in moments of grief, like when romantic love has fallen apart. If the witches taught me anything, it's that life isn't so scary when you have the love of a sister; also to always throw spilt salt over your left shoulder and fall in love whenever you can.

SUMMERS: That was Marielle Segarra, host of NPR's Life Kit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS KISS")

FAITH HILL: (Singing) Unstoppable, this kiss, this kiss. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Marielle Segarra
Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR's Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives.