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At the heart of this marvellous Capra film is a man, who from when we first see him in Gower's store, longs to see far off places. As we all know, he never does leave Bedford Falls and it is this sadness that is at the core of the film and the main character George Bailey, a man with unfulfilled dreams. It is also what makes this film stand the test of time. The characters are believable and compared to current Hollywood heroes win hands down. They are all so well defined and fleshed out as in a Dickens novel that one enjoys spending time with them. So much has been borrowed from this film and so much written about it. Essentially it is James Stewart's central performance that is outstanding and to watch his realistic gradual breakdown is very distressing. I always find it difficult watching the scene when he goes home after realising he cannot find the money and Mary(his wife) turns to see him clutching his daughter with such a desperate look on his face. Her reaction to him is extremely moving. A man driven to the brink worth more alive than dead, this is a much darker film than people often expect. But he does get a second chance and maybe this is why we like it so much, because in real life this is rarely possible. George Bailey played by James Stewart is someone who has a great face. I like George Bailey.
Ugh, how precious! How can the whole world go on without you??? Oh, how we all need and depend on you! How we all love each other and how we all love you and how you love all of us and how I love you and how you love me! Oh, the world needs you and it can't live without you! How women need you to give them such precious, happy children and how children need you to give them such a precious, happy existence! I need you, you need me, we need each other, we can't live without each other! The world needs you, the universe needs you, even angels need you! Needy, needy, needy! Oh, and be sure to be WHITE and that everyone else around you are WHITE, too - thanks.
My family's annual viewing of 'It's a Wonderful Life,' on Christmas eve, has
become as ritualistic as eating turkey on December 25. With the fresh smell
of the tree in the corner of the room, a flickering candle on the fireplace
and a mince pie soaked with brandy butter in my hand, relishing the
spectacle of 'It's a Wonderful Life' is, despite the number of times I've
now sat through it, something I look forward to and treasure each year. It
is, quintessentially, a Christmas movie, and I'll never be able to bring
myself to watching it in the middle of an August heatwave.
I can't quite put my finger on what exactly makes this film so special. But surely the heart-warming plot, which proves to us that, us humans, we can always eventually triumph over despair, and the overall magical feel of the film, is a crucial element of Capra's masterpiece. It teaches us, as privileged westerners, many lessons about the true meaning of humanity and forces us, just as it does to George Bailey - played with relish and sincerity by James Stewart, capturing some of his finest moments - to appreciate, on reflection, just how lucky we actually are.
There are countless of our favourite films that, through sheer force of habit, we find ourselves enjoying on a regular basis. But the very fact that, on the same day each year, I ensure that I savour 'It's A Wonderful Life,' proves that this film is really something quite remarkable with an ability to make its mark.
Though this film is associated with Christmas because it has been shown at
Christmas time, it is really a dark study of the insides of the human soul.
George is driven to the point of wanting to die and wanting not even to
Frank Capra takes us through the life of a man so that we can see why someone would be willing to choose oblivion rather than existence. Then we see that, even though life may seem meaningless, we, like George, have choices and that these choices can make a great difference in the world even though we may not realize that fact. The film helps us to realize why we are alive. That is its real enduring appeal.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is depressing, which makes it quite inappropriate for a so- called "Christmas movie." I made the mistake of watching it on Christmas Day one year, and it turned out to be a damper on the whole holiday. Not just for me, but the whole family. The acting left a little to be desired. I will say whoever acted the angel was very good (I think it was Henry Travers). His character was also strong. But James Stewart's character was pretty depressing. He makes the small mistake of saying "I wish I had never been born," and shortly after, his wish comes true! He still lives in his hometown and is the same person, but all of his old buddies ignore him when he tries to talk to him. Even his family shuns him. If you are going to watch this movie, make sure it is not actually on Christmas or any holiday, for that matter.
I think it's an average movie. It's got classical Hollywood propaganda- and politics. I think people tend to ignore the undertones of trying to get people to stay in the 'homeland' of America. There's also political messages about democracy and individualism, as well as small messages about family life and propaganda about the war. It's good in that it gets people to appreciate life, yet it seems to discourage people to aim higher. For some people having a wife and kids and friends is nice, but for some they have other goals. Seeing the world and achieving ones goals is important, we can't all accept second best. We have to be selfish in some ways if we are to get what we want. There needs to be a balance, but in this movie George lives more for others.
One of the all-time Christmas classics, this excellent piece of work
from Frank Capra focuses on George Bailey (James Stewart, in one of his
career-best roles) who is stopped from jumping into the river in
despair by a friendly angel called Clarence (Henry Travers). We then
see in flashback what has brought George to the brink of suicide and
key events from his life - saving his brother from drowning when the
ice breaks; alerting his chemist boss to a fatal mix of drugs; courting
and marrying his childhood sweetheart (the winsome Donna Reed); and
dealing with the film's token bad guy, Mr Potter (brilliantly played by
the crusty Lionel Barrymore). Clarence then shows George what the
sleepy town of Bedford Falls would have been like without him and
proves that you're never alone if you have friends around you and if
you make a difference.
Interestingly, two direct influences from this film were on the poetry e-zine 'Zuzu's Petals' (George Bailey's little daughter, who leaves some flower petals in his jacket); and, so it is said, on the children's TV programme, Sesame Street (Bert and Ernie, the mad puppets, who are the names of the cop and the taxi driver in this).
And let us not forget, when you hear a bell ring, it means an angel has got its wings!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't wonder why this movie is among the top 30 movies. It's an American
classic, you don't need more. If this was a European movie, it would get bad
critics and ratings. But with the Americans we tolerate it. They are like
that. The film they like best is the film with the happiest happy-end that
is so happy that it's already in the title. Where I live, they dare to show
it once a year, at Christmas, and that's it. It's typical for the American
people that they adore movies where someone is shown by God Himself how
much the world needs him! That's what gives them hope that their own life
isn't meaningless. The problem is: That man the film is about has in most
cases nothing to do with them. He is an angel himself, saved two people's
life and gave homes to many poor people in a small village. Who else can say
that about oneself? The plot is constructed, so the film isn't valuable to
give you hope and people who realize that are rather made sad then
America doesn't realize and that's why it loves this movie. Fine. It's not a bad film at all! It's really enjoyable, even humorous at the beginning, and James Stewart is a great actor. But again, I'm sure this film would have been fallen into oblivion within 50 years of movie history if it was a European film. It's a Wonderful Life` is one of many bizarre drolleries of the American kitsch society.
Now, here is one movie where I will have to disagree with almost
everybody. I do not care that this film has become a Christmas staple,
and notwithstanding my love and admiration for Frank Capra and James
Stewart, this movie is far from even being particularly good, let alone
a masterpiece. This is a movie that somehow got hyped up with the
passing of time, and now exists in a universe of its own. It is telling
that at the time of its making, it did not even receive a single Oscar.
Apparently, at the time, nobody thought it to be so special...
Now, if you look at this picture objectively and without the typically "small-town-America do-good pink-shaded sunglasses", you will find a very simple, obvious and at times boring story. The characters are so simplified, that most are just caricatures of real people (just look at the local villain). Technically, there is nothing to write home about either. The sound, as a matter of fact is terrible, one can barely discern the (sometimes confusing) dialog.
And then we come to (according to the masses, and not only) the most important part of the movie: the message. Here is where I have another major problem... I may be cynical or stupid, but I do not see what this all-important transcendental message is; If it is simply 'be a good person', this could have been (and has been) done much better. This movie is a mix of slapstick Hollywood 'feel good' and of political correctness '1947 style'. No wonder it fares so good in our modern times...
There is a folktale concerning St Martin, who as a soldier on a mission of
importance, gave half of his cloak to a naked beggar he met in a snowstorm... the moral being that there are circumstances where it isn't worthy (or
rational) to be charitable to the point where you can't survive yourself.
It's a A Wonderful Life, however, is the story of someone who - in effect -
gives all his cloak, then complains about the consequences.
There's been a deal of revisionist criticism focusing on the political subtext, but I'm more interested in the personal angle. In my view, George's suicidal state of mind is not caused by the greedy Potter or by family mishaps, but by his invariable decision to respond to such situations by throwing away all of his own wellbeing and hopes in favour of others.
His actions are not even necessarily 'good'. At every turn, George lets sentiment completely swamp reason. What if covering up for an incompetent pharmacist led to further deaths? Perhaps Uncle Billy *ought* to be in an institution? Perhaps George should have recognised a no-win situation, made a settlement with Potter and moved on, instead of selfishly saddling his family with a company he deliberately runs so unprofitably that it hasn't the capital to ride a financial setback.
Furthermore, the alternative timeline presented by Clarence is clearly fake, concocted to justify George's failure to break out of this self-created rut. There is no reason to asssume, other than because Capra wants it so, that if George hadn't existed his wife would have remained unmarried, his brother fallen through the ice, or the town's social change necessarily proved negative in the long run (Potter after all, won't live for ever).
Sorry, but I find this film deeply exasperating. This is not, as some have commented, a modern-day Book of Job, since George's problems are not inevitable fate, but so much down to his own choice to be a doormat.
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