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It's a Wonderful Life More at IMDbPro »

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Self-Sacrificing Going Too Far?

5/10
Author: bigverybadtom from United States
13 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The premise of the story is, of course, how a man named George Bailey keeps sacrificing his money and his desires all his life to help others in various ways over the years, and when later in life he is finally overwhelmed by his latest problems which he cannot solve himself and is ready to commit suicide, an angel from Heaven whose eyes are upon promotion is sent down to tell George about how all his self-sacrificing had saved so many people from disaster.

One can nitpick about various things in the movie: reading a Bible, there are references to cherubs and seraphs, angels whose status in Heaven is indicated by the number of wings they have; the fact that George, despite his frustrated ambitions, didn't do too badly-he has a nice wife and children and is not living in poverty, and not being eligible to serve in the military would not necessarily be considered by some people (including people who had) to be a bad thing.

My problem, though, is this-it turns out that Bailey has lots of friends because of all the good he had done, and they're willing to pay him back to get him out of his financial hole and save him from jail. Unfortunately, in real life self-sacrifice, especially excessive self- sacrifice, does not necessarily result in gratitude from those one had sacrificed for. They might necessarily take your actions for granted and in fact might regard you as a slave, which all too often happens in real life. Once your purpose is served, the sacrificer is discarded and forgotten, or even despised. And that, alas, would have been the far more credible ending.

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19 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Life's Not Always So Wonderful

6/10
Author: evanston_dad from United States
23 March 2006

My apologies to all of you "It's a Wonderful Life"-ers out there. Please believe me when I say that I've tried multiple times to develop warm feelings for this movie. But it's just not meant to be. I've seen this film a couple of times, and I never want to see it again.

I want to beat James Stewart's George Bailey about the head and shoulders every time I watch the movie. Perhaps the most passive-aggressive hero in motion picture history, George Bailey spends half of his time sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of others, and the other half whining about his hard luck. No, George, it's not hard luck...it's the result of your own decision making skills. Either be selfless and stop complaining, or be a bastard and screw everyone else. But make up your mind, and don't take two hours to do it.

Ahhh, perhaps I now live in too cynical and jaded a world to tolerate George's namby-pamby indecision. But maybe that's a reason better than any other to keep this film around. Character aside, however, the one thing I can unequivocally praise about this film is the performance of Stewart. He provides a welcome bitter edge to combat Capra's sugary-sweet corn. His breakdown scene in a bar, where he desperately prays to God to help him keep himself together, is a tour-de-force.

Drag it out every Christmas and enjoy...I won't begrudge you that small pleasure. Just don't expect me to join along.

Grade: B-

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20 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

My all time favourite film

10/10
Author: brolac from Cambridge, England
24 November 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Before writing my comment, I skimmed through the existing 196 user comments and found that much has been said about the way this film reaches out and touches people (some of whom are fully paid-up members of the cynics party!) There have also been some very negative views registered, and I think I can see why some find it hard to relate to this film, with it's post-war values and strong religious tones.

Personally I love 'It's a Wonderful Life' on all levels; it is heart-warming and moving, it has a message that is lacking in so many films today and it is a superb piece of cinematic art. But if the religious frame of the film does not appeal to you, I say look beyond it and appreciate some of the most skillful moments of cinematography and finest acting you will ever see.

****POSSIBLE SPOILER*****

In my mind the finest scene is that when George meets his brother from the train and discovers that he is planning to marry. Watch the way the rest of the action becomes incidental as the camera focuses on George, a man seeing his hopes slipping away from him.

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Brings you back into the true meaning of Christmas

10/10
Author: Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) from Chicago, Illinois
20 December 2005

I know this is going to sound ridicules, but seriously, I have not seen this movie since I was a child. Even though they play it every year for Christmas, I never really had an interest to see it again. I was complaining to my mom the other day how sad it is that people just look at Christmas as present time and just getting what you want, I almost cried over it because I miss how my family would get me presents, but we'd go the homeless shelter to help out people who couldn't have a better one than us, I always thanked my parents for those wonderful experiences. It taught me that there is always worse and we must help those not just on Christmas, but all year around. Well, we did it again this year, but I'm now in the retail business and when I complained about this to my mom, she lent me the movie and said to watch it.

Watching this movie truly touched my heart and brought me back to the true meaning of Christmas. I mean, your heart just goes out to George and his wonderful little town of Bedford Falls. He and his wonderful wife Mary together do whatever they can to make it in life and support their 4 darling children. But when a horrible mishap goes on at the bank that George works at, loosing $8,000, he starts to wonder if his life is worth living. But there is one angel who will not give up on him and shows him what life would be like if George had never been born. In Bedford Falls without George, turned into Pottersville because of the very greedy business man Mr. Potter, no one is happy and Mary is all alone. George realizes that maybe life is worth living and comes home to this loving town that is willing to do anything to help him and his family out.

"What goes around, comes around", I couldn't stop tearing at the end because it's just so loving. I hope future Christmas's will go back like this movie's examples, where people are just happy to have what they have and realize some are not so lucky, but we must all do our part. Cheesy, I know, but if one person can raise their hand, we all will do our parts in the end. Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

10/10

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14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Masterclass in Movie-making

10/10
Author: Richard Tunnah from Birmingham, England
23 December 2005

The first time I am aware of seeing IAWL I managed to catch the last 5 Min's of the movie. It seemed to feature a character running around shouting 'Merry Christmas' at everybody, followed by a party where everyone handed over money To be frank, I wasn't in a hurry to see the rest of the movie.

Then several years later, I started to watch IAWL from the beginning, unaware that it was the same movie. I was struck by how comprehensive the character study of George Bailey was. He was a good man, but his ambitions were frustrated at every turn. He wanted an Education, that was just outside his grasp. He wanted to travel, life conspired against him. At every step of the way, one person saw George 'rolling with the blows', that was Mary Hatch. This woman loved George and wanted to stand at his side, so they can face the slings and arrows of misfortune together. This is love of the purest kind.

But even Mary's love cannot prevent George contemplating suicide. A single bad day that sees George on the top of the World at the beginning and thinking that taking his own life is the only way out by 10.45 pm.

I was stunned when the ending turned into the movie I had seen some time before. But this time I understood, this wasn't just sentiment for it's own sake. To understand the ending you need to have gone on the same dark journey that George Bailey had been on.

Many others have commented on the feel good aspects of the movie, so I won't. What I would like to say is that there are a number of scenes which live in the memory long after the end credits.

Young George trying to persuade Mr Gower that he had prescribed poison (with young Mary Hatch Looking on).

George hurrying home when he heard his father had had a stroke (with Mary Hatch looking on).

George waiting at the station with Uncle Billy for Harry to come back from college (only to find Harry is already married and has a job that will keep him away from Bedford Falls).

That kiss (I have to check that I am earthed, there is so much electricity in the air).

Mary giving up their honeymoon money, to keep the Building and Loan out of Potters grasp.

The Bridal Suit (with Ernie & Bert).

Trying to talk to Mary in the alternate reality, but managing frighten her.

The Ending.

I don't think I have seen a better character study, or for that matter a better movie.

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18 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Ageing Beautifully

10/10
Author: dowdosean from Culver City, USA
20 June 2006

I had fond memories of "It's A Wonderful Life" but, somehow, it never made my top ten. The other night I felt the urge to see it again, from beginning to end, after that fun compilation from the AFI, 100 movies, 100 Cheers. The most surprising thing about this perennial classic is that it's not just a good movie but a sort of miracle. Age has made it more relevant, more powerful. Frank Capra is, without question, its miracle worker. His narration style was a first and in a way unsurpassed. As you may very well know, the film wasn't an instant success. A peculiarity it shares with most of the great works of art. The truth is something that needs time to be confirmed even recognized. James Stewart's performance lived from a 2006 stand point is, quite simply, extraordinary. Capra's films were known as "capracorn" in their day. Strange to think about it now because its sentimentality wasn't really sentimental but a need to find goodness in the darkest places. The great Capra not only found it, it unmasked it with the same relish that he unmasked evil and greed. My only regret is that on this times of technical prowess we'll never see again the likes of "It's Wonderful Life" But, trying to look on the bright side in the most Capraesque kind of way. "It's A Wonderful Life" will be around for ever.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A dissenting view

Author: jbuck_919 from Bamberg, Germany
6 June 2002

No folks, I promise not to do the same thing to the Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind, but this has got to be the most overrated movie of all time.

It took me a number of tries to watch it all the way through, because it is so incredibly boring. All the scenarios are exaggerated without a hint of the whimsy or joy that should mark a Christmas movie. NOBODY in it is likeable, including the hapless and almost hopeless hero. They even give Donna Reed an improbable scene in the alternate reality where she is a total... well, if I want this posted, I can't use the word.

But the worst flaw? THEY NEVER GET BACK THE MONEY THAT WAS STOLEN. It is morally unacceptable that this guy doesn't get punished and the townspeople have to rush in with a bailout.

I've heard this movie praised to the highest heavens as one of the ten best ever made for most of my life. I'll give them credit for the body language between Donna Reed and James Stewart in the scene where he is on the phone, but not for much else.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Haven't we all at some point on the way home ...

9/10
Author: calvinnme from United States
25 December 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

... arrived at our exit on the freeway and wondered, "What if I just kept driving?". That very modern - and yet timeless - feeling is at the heart of this film, before life was so complex, when the U.S. was dotted with small towns in which it was possible to be born, make a good living, and die, without ever leaving, save for military service.

George Bailey is both an extraordinarily lucky and unlucky guy. He's unlucky because none of the plans he made for himself as a young man ever worked out - his loyalties to family and to his hometown always kept him pinned there. He's extraordinarily lucky because he has a wife and children that adore him. But one Christmas Eve when he is in his late 30's a crisis brought about by his uncle's stupidity is the last straw that causes him to wish that he was never born, and he gets that wish granted to him - to see the world as if he had never been born, and he does not like the view.

It turns out over his life, George did a series of good deeds - some large some small - that changed the course of just about every life in his hometown. Basically, without the Bailey Savings and Loan, which without George would have collapsed in the 1920's at the death of his father, the only source of financing is Mr. Potter's bank, which makes Citibank look like a charitable institution. The town has thus been thrown into chaos, a place where alcoholism, prostitution, and broken homes abound. Now I could sympathize with George's horror at seeing the bad fate of just about everybody he knew save Mary, his wife. When George inquires about her fate he is told - "You won't like it. She's an OLD MAID"! Oh the horror! She in fact is the town librarian. To quote someone else on this subject - "in a town thrown into chaos she's an educated woman with a job - what's the problem?". Mary, before she even married George, is full of life and has a sense of style, but just subtract George from her existence and she becomes someone who dresses like a woman twenty years her senior and is deathly frightened of men? Pleeeease! Oh well, if I am going to watch the films of 1946 I'd better be prepared to deal with the values of 1946, but I digress.

The fact is George probably WOULD have been better off without these ties that bind. He could have seen the world and done big things and slept like a baby without a worry. But the fact is he realized he cared about these people whose lives would be ruined without him, and that is probably why so many of us don't just keep driving when we hit our exit on the highway. We go home to the people we love and the problems that come with them.

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17 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

I don't like it

5/10
Author: oneillrobyn from United States
28 December 2009

I am definitely in the minority regarding "Wonderful Life". I have avoided seeing this movie for years ... and I finally gave in just before Christmas 2009. It was Christmas Eve and I discovered why I was so depressed on the holiday. I really can't stand this movie. The original problem I had with it was when I first saw it many many years ago. I didn't like the idea that "Mary" needed glasses and was "ugly", and a lonely prim librarian without Jimmy Stewart in her life. No, I am not a librarian, but I love spending time in libraries with all the knowledge books have to offer. I felt this was gratuitous and insulting. In addition, couldn't "Mary" have found another husband? I resented those old movies where all the those poor, struggling people live in large, comfortable old houses, even if the hero's mother ran a boarding house. I think Frank Capra's films are phony and the products of an immature mind. Another Christmasy movie is my favorite one: "The Bishop's Wife". It's sophisticated, witty and beautiful, and has much stronger actors than any of Capra's films, with the exception of Henry Travers who, as far as I am concerned, is the real star of "Wonderful Life". Even Lionel Barrymore is wasted in "Life".

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Arguably James Stewart best performance

8/10
Author: Forest G from Indonesia
21 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

To be honest before I watch It's a Wonderful Life, I really don't like James Stewart. I watched him in Vertigo, Rear Window, and other Hitchcock's movie, and I don't like him at all, I think he was so typical and 1 dimensional. After I watched him in this movie, I start to like him, especially when he acted in the last part. Well I guest I just hate Hitchcock as a director, not Stewart as an actor.

Back to the movie, at first I don't like it because Stewart looks so older when he was playing as teenager Bailey -.-". After half of the movie I don't really care, I guess I am such a sucker for Christmas family movie, the golden part of this movie is the last part after Bailey met the angel, Stewart showed that he is good actor in this part. In the end this is good family movie if you like Christmas film.

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