It’s a Wonderful Life is another classic movie that I had never seen before watching it now. As someone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, that actually took some doing, since for awhile there, one could practically watch the movie nonstop on television from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And… It is a classic. It’s a wonderful movie and at least as relevant today as it was when it was made. I’m glad to be tagging along with Lisa at Boondock Ramblings and Erin at Cracker Crumb Life for this little project – ‘Tis the Season Cinema – and I will link to their reviews below.
Coming in to watching the movie, all I basically knew was that there was an angel who showed a man what life would be like had he never existed, and that it wasn’t a pretty picture. If I were pressed for more detail, I might be able to come up with “Pottersville” and if you asked me whether the quote “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”, on a good day, I might be able to tell you yes. That being said, a couple of the stills from the movie are iconic, and one would have to be completely disconnected from American culture for them not to be recognizable as coming from It’s A Wonderful Life.
It’s a Wonderful Life begins as the main character, George Bailey (played by James Stewart) is having the worst day of his life. The thing is, Mr. Bailey is a good and decent man – not perfect, mind you – but he has spent his life doing the “right” thing even if that has meant putting off his big dreams indefinitely. However, he hasn’t done poorly for himself, he has a wife who loves him, beautiful children, and a business that is quietly bringing prosperity to the town and its residents, even if that means that he’s not raking in the dough.
However, on this day, he’s on the brink of despair, and the thought that, because of an insurance policy, he might be “worth more dead than alive”, this man of virtue is at a point where he is contemplating suicide.
Here, we get into things that just wouldn’t be allowed into a big-budget Hollywood release these days… There’s a “celestial conversation” between three voices, one named Joseph, one named Clarence, and the other whom we are to assume is God. When he and his family call out in prayer, Clarence – who is an “angel in training” is sent to help George. This is how we get to the visions of what the town would be like without George, but there’s an hour of the film leading up to that part where we are led through important points of George’s life, allowing the viewer to understand how George became the man he did.
I loved the movie. I really enjoyed a movie where the man wasn’t somehow fatally flawed. No, George isn’t perfect, but he’s a skilled and talented man with a good heard who thinks of others – and the “big picture” – before himself. He’s self-sacrificing. It is a shining example of the Christian life.
I liked the way Mary (Donna Reed) was portrayed. She was the good woman behind the good man.
Even with the funny clothes, the scene with the floor coming apart at the dance was hilarious, because I could still see kids today doing pretty much the same thing were it to happen.
The small town/big city divide is at least as relevant now as it was then. Unfortunately, nowadays, besides alcohol and gambling, there’s any number of drugs and access to all sorts of evil on the internet to try to numb the hopelessness – if one takes the attitude that small towns are traps that one can’t escape.
I love that it’s a strongly positive film without being corny. It handles the topic of despair well, and it’s another thing that is at least as important today as it was then.
It’s interesting that the end isn’t necessarily “resolved”. I can imagine that the bad deed will be discovered, and that finally, George and family have the opportunity to fulfill a couple of those “big” dreams. (A primitive GoFundMe, if you will) but that’s left for the viewer to imagine. It works, because the film is about George, not about the deed that was done, or even this one night of despair.
Now I am excited to read the Lisa and Erin’s reviews! Lisa’s review is here: https://lisahoweler.com/2022/12/15/tis-the-season-cinema-its-a-wonderful-life/ and I will post the link to Erin once I see it. 🙂
(I watched this movie through Plex, which has this movie available for free with ads. We’ve had Plex installed on various devices for quite awhile, but this is the first time I’ve watched a movie through the Plex offerings. I kept getting ads for local law firms in English and Spanish, and the one guy just struck me as so funny with his perfect but *strongly* American accented Spanish.)