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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".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally, at the age of 38, I saw "It's A Wonderful Life" in its entirety
(after catching a few minutes here and there over the years on TV). When it
was over, I found myself puzzled over why this movie is considered such a
I am not talking about the acting, or the film's technical proficiency. All of that seemed fine, even well-done at times. I am talking about its reason for being: Its story.
I'll assume you have seen it, so prepare for spoilers. The basic message of this movie seems to be that a man who never left his home town to pursue his personal dreams nevertheless led a wonderful life due to his kindness and caring for the town and its residents. In fact, when he finally reaches a low point, the town's residents come to bail HIM out, thereby proving what a wonderful person he has been.
A nice story, but the movie misses two logical points. First, was the man who never pursued his personal dreams (George Bailey) HAPPY with the life he DID lead? If he was happy with staying home, helping people afford houses and bailing out his family's business, then the point of the movie is MOOT. He evidently gave up very little for a happy life. Other than a few wistful asides, we never see that George is bothered much that he didn't travel the world. He seems perfectly content where he is. So if he is happy, then the central message of kindness and helping others while sacrificing your own dreams is weak or lost entirely.
Second, if a man spends DECADES helping out residents of his little town (most of whom remain residents over the years), I don't see it as any great act of charity that when the man needs monetary help, all those people he assisted over the years are willing to give him a few dollars to fix his problem. The climactic ending, when people line up to give George 20 bucks here and 75 bucks there, is made to look like some kind of incredible holiday miracle. But think about it: If a man made it possible for YOU to buy your first home (in an era when buying a home was truly a dream), and a few years later he needs some money for his business (which is the entity that helps so many local people) to survive, wouldn't you go donate whatever you could afford to help him? It wouldn't even have to be that painful, really, in a town with several thousand residents.
No, I think the town's true colors are shown earlier, when George's business almost goes under due to a run on the banks and his customers are more than happy to run to his competitor's bank to get 50 cents on a dollar. Some people end up staying ONLY after George uses his own WEDDING MONEY to pay them a fraction of what they sought to withdraw (which, when you think about it, is no real risk ... they can always go to the competitor later if things get worse). THAT seemed to me to also be normal behavior by the local residents, and it was not celebrated like the ending is.
Maybe some people were impressed with the plot device of an angel showing George what life might have been like without him. Maybe that was the first time that had been done in a movie, for all I know. But I found that device not unlike the ghosts who visit Scrooge, and that tale was written long before It's A Wonderful Life was made. So I don't get that, either.
There were some fun moments, and who doesn't like Jimmy Stewart. But a revered classic? I guess I don't get it. I gave it a 5.
Everyone has heard of this film, and if you haven't seen it, it's
probably because you live in Antarctica or you have purposely avoided
watching an old corny rerun in black and white.
I command you to watch it, and if you have a heart, you will cry with joy. This film has endured as a timeless classic for 70 years for good reason. This film is pure art because it taps into the human experience in such an effective way. The message that we are all important is simply and beautifully brought to life.
Jimmy Stewart's performance is human, funny, poignant and brilliant. Do not look for subtlety, clever meanings, high drama, modern art, political correctness, special effects, sex scenes, or car chases. You won't even see any color (avoid the colorized version at all costs), but what you will find is a perfect little film that will stay with you forever. This film represents the very best of what America wants to be at its core.
I appreciate high brow multi-million dollar productions as much as any other film geek/ movie buff, but this film always brings me home because it reminds me of what really matters in life.
Watch it and savor every wholesome corny second of it. If you don't feel something, you are not human.
Another masterpiece of James Stewart, Donna Reed the most romantic duo.i got myself eyed into these fine illustrious events hopes dreams of George bailey.could not lift myself from the chair.it really made me think over my life philosophy to rejuvenate the enthusiasm.the turnaround of events were not as dramatic though enjoyed every bit of it. that's why it may not be able to compete The The Shawshank Redemption...whatsoever.It's a film that you can enjoy sitting with every level of people.Marvelous fantastic though lacked a tiny little bit of Extreme Dramatic flavor.I can just mark 10 just only for the characterization,acting staging...what a good film must have.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have seen this film several times now, and the first time it really
had me suckered. George Bailey really did have a wonderful life, after
all. His wonderful friends and family got together to do a wonderful
thing for him in his time of trouble. And Clarence got his wings...
pass the Kleenex, quick!
Then I started to think: George Bailey never got to travel the world and fulfil his potential to be a great architect. All his dreams faded and died as he struggled to run a business and raise a family. And what thanks did he get? His father dropped dead and landed him with the family business. His brother sold him out by getting married to the boss's daughter and landing himself in Easy Street. His uncle makes him liable for a larceny rap by losing thousands of dollars. OK, friends make up the shortfall and even the bank examiner joins in the goodwill, but - back in the cold, real world, maybe in January - George would still have to explain where the money had gone. If he couldn't do that he would still be seen as an embezzler of company funds. And meanwhile that nasty, villainous Mr Potter has got a nice little Christmas present - no sign of him making nice and handing it back.
And then there's Pottersville - wow! Bars, music and women. A dance with Gloria Grahame - preferably a horizontal Mambo - would be worth any red-blooded man's hard earned cash, surely? (Ms Grahame played at my local UK theatre in 1980. She was still as sexy as hell and, apparently, a lovely person to work with.) Of course, you could always listen to the snow fall and watch 'The Bells of St Mary's' instead.
So, from snuffling into my sleeve at first viewing, I am now horrified at the crabbed, stifled, thwarted, frustrated, cramped 'life' it tells us we should consider 'Wonderful'.
I hate to be the lone dissenter here, but I think It's a Wonderful Life stands right up there as one of the most overrated movies of all time. Not that it is a particularly bad movie, but I cannot see how it rates on everyones top ten list. True, the story is interesting and a bit intriguing, and it has a couple of good scenes. But you take out the scene where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing and they fall in the pool, and you take away the last five minutes of the movie, then there is not much left. And speaking of the last five minutes of the movie, that is the only reference in the whole movie to Christmas, yet this movie has been branded a Christmas movie. To me, in terms of Christmas movies, it does not belong in the same category (or class) as Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and yes, Even Home Alone, Parts I and II. I will give it one thing, the ending to this movie is truly one of the best of any movie ever made. But to me, a movie has to have more than a good ending with a Christmas setting to be called either a classic movie or a Christmas movie. Oh well, the minority has spoken.
Watching this film in the wake of the banking crisis, it is apt to have
a different effect on the viewer than that intended. The actions of
George Bailey and his father amount to a long justification for
"sub-prime" mortgages,"sub prime" being a euphemism for "lending to
people who have no chance of paying you back" which has lead to the
present day bank bailouts which means that responsible people now must
pay for the actions of the irresponsible. Why does doing this make
George and his dad the good guys?
Why, for that matter, are we told that George's father only made enough money to send one of his kids to college? Is that meant to be good? Surely, in the real world, that would make him a poor father? He has clearly never heard the truism "charity begins at home" although he did have enough money to hire a black servant..perhaps he should have saved the money he spent on her to put his kids through college? Just a thought.
Obviously Hollywood will never get to grips with the real life implications of the Bailey's irresponsible lending policies, ie people being lumbered with unpayable mortgages and losing their homes. No, this is the land of magic pixie dust where good intentions always lead to good outcomes. The reality is transformed into a one dimensional baddie, an evil capitalist who could come straight out of the Stalinist propaganda of the period (in fact this film could have easily be shown in the USSR without a single cut whereas it was -rightly- a box office flop in the US). Oh, if only there weren't these greedy evil people, if only banks could lend money to good people without worrying whether they could pay it back, then how much nicer the world would be!
Around this childish morality, a sanctimonious and saccharine story is built. Even by Hollywood's golden age standards it is extremely sentimental. I must say in passing, I've attempted to watch this film many times, but this this is the first time I've managed to make it all the way through and only through gritted teeth.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Every time you hear a bell ring, it means that some angel's just got his wings'. That is the quest for the guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers) when he was assign to take care of a suicidal man named George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Clarence must try to show George, the tremendous impact he has had on his community before it's too late. Can Clarence, change George's mind or will this Christmas, be the last for George Baily? To find out, watch the movie! Made just after World War 2, this movie was a favorite for both leading man Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra. It's easy to see why. There's so much things to like, about this film. The film is full of delightful moments, from music and a dance sequence, funny comedy, and heart-warming romantic scenes. While, some critics might see this film as too sentimental and syrupy. In fact, in my view, most of the movie's vision is something out of a more modern complex, dark-edged sophisticated film. Yes, there are some really dated dialogue, sayings and behavior, but for the most part, I think modern audiences can still, watch this movie and find something about it, that they can related to. No matter how often, you get to see this Christmas favorite, there is always something timeless with this film, when you do. Important message about the value of an individual life and how one person's actions affect all those around him/her is a great life moral for people to take. Themes about family and friendship are also very important. Another great message is having faith, and belief in yourself and the future. After all, director Frank Capra himself said he made the film in large part to "combat a modern trend towards atheism and Nihilism". While, a lot of people say, that this movie isn't really a Christmas movie, due to the fact, that 90% of the movie is a story about George's life and takes place at some point in time other than Christmas; in my view, the whole Clarence arch, wouldn't had work as good as it did, on any other day of the year. There is something about Christmas, that makes the whole magically redemption story with Clarence somewhat believable. Based on the short story "The Greatest Gift," by author Philip Van Doren Stern, It's a Wonderful Life was never intended to be the Christmastime staple that it is now. In fact, when the film was first released back in 1946, it was generally considered a box-office flop. This film had a resurgence for a while in the U.S. during the 1980s when it was discovered that the copyright on the film was never renewed, which meant the film was in the Public Domain and any television station could legally show it as often as they wanted without paying for a license. Many stations across the country would run it, around Christmas time, to the point, that people label it as a Christmas movie. No matter, if it's a holiday movie, or not. A lot of critics, has point out, that the film protagonist's action are very similar to a Christ figure in all. I have to say, they're somewhat right, but there were some moments that George Bailey got really problematic to sympathize with. Some people feel that brought all his problems on himself by choosing to run an over-leveraged, illiquid bank business even though he's given many opportunities to do something else. However, I didn't find it, too abrasive to watch. What I didn't like, is how he treat Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) for most of the film. He was a little too mean-spirited to her; mostly in the beginning of the film He nearly ruin his first date with her. I really didn't like that. Thank heavens, he got more likable, as the film goes on. Still, the drunk driving scene was a bit hard to watch. Anyways, Jimmy Stewart is wonderful as George. I'm glad, he didn't quit, acting after the war. He gives the performance of a lifetime, here. Alternately affable and bitter, he is the movie's little-man hero. All of his emotional were, mostly play as for real. Seeing this, Capra had to reframe the shot in order to get it closer than was actually filmed because he wanted to catch the expression on Stewart's face. At the time, this shot was an extremely time-consuming project, each frame had to be done individually, making it only one step away from stop-motion animation. Capra spent the whole night doing it. Thank Goodness, he did! Most of the supporting cast are just as good as Stewart, but one-person stands out. Donna Reed is wonderful, despite her character being a one-dimensional manic pixie dream girl. She was really able to show the character's beautiful, supporting and caring nature. Just say the word, Mary, and I'll lasso you, the moon, indeed! I just don't buy the idea that George and Mary are somehow supposed to be soulmates. It's a bit unrealistic to think that Mary can only love George. Nor, do I believe, without spoiling it, that the ending of this film seen can be seem as "happy". After all, George is still in the same position he was before Clarence show up. An investigation is still looming. There are tons of others puzzling questions, still worth debating. So a rewatch, is needed. One thing, when watching it, is not to watch the color version. The black and white works well, to show the symbolic snow of the peaceful Bedford Falls, when compare to the cold and dark sleet of Potterville. It's better to watch that, since Paramount had all the grain removed in 2006. Overall: This well-known sentimental film is a masterpiece. Capra's Magnum Opus. A must-watch. So check it out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of an handful of movies I can watch time and time again, it
never shows its age. Its always Christmas once I have watched this or
should say feels like the holidays once I have watched it Frank Capras
film shows us why is one of the most popular and enduring festive films
of all time,with its gloriously sentimental testament to homely
small-town moral values and how we all influence each others life's
along the way and what would happen if fate was given a nudge in a
James Stewart gives one of his finest, most affecting performances, though he was always great at portraying the everyman character that most people can relate to, even us outside the US. This film and Scrooge and Christmas Carol (the George Minter one from the 1950's) are my all time favourite feel good Christmas movies, though I have Elf on here as well. Overall its a great film and I am amazed to know it bombed at the box office, even though its now a well loved classic.
*** 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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