Film Foray RETROspective no. Sept (Holiday Spectacular): It's A Wonderful Life
For many, It's a Wonderful Life is simply a film to be watched at Christmas time or in the immortal words of Henry F. Potter, sentimental hogwash! To me, this film is neither of those, granted the last third of it is Christmas related. To pigeonhole this film to either of those categories is doing it a disservice and is a simplification of a rather deep film.
George Bailey (The incomparable Jimmy Stewart) is trapped in the small town of Bedford Falls and continually puts his family's savings and loan ahead of himself and his own ambitions. He eventually marries Mary Hatch (Donna Reed), a girl who has loved him his entire life while toiling away at said Building and Loan. George decides that he does not want to live once his uncle Billy loses 8,000 dollars which old man Potter (Lionel Barrymore) realizes is the exact thing he needs to ruin his nemesis. George ultimately sees the impact he has had on a multitude of people and decides that he wants to live again.
It's A Wonderful Life is without a doubt, the greatest movie ever. The argument does not even need to go further than Frank Capra or Jimmy Stewart. I am not being facetious. You want to know my favorite mov-- It's A Wonderful Life. I won't allow you to finish the question. Sorry for being rude but I just get excited is all.
As I mentioned earlier, the film tends to be pigeonholed or simplified to the last third of the movie but the film is deeper than that. It is quite progressive in the politics that flesh out the world of Bedford Falls. In fact, it is quite black and white, Potter and capitalism... Bad. George and the poor building and loan... Good. I say that it is progressive or liberal because it places much stock in the notion that all people are inherently good. Nothing exemplifies this more than the quote: "Why don't you go to the riffraff you love so much and ask them to let you have $8,000? You know why? Because they'd run you out of town on a rail." That is the most basic of liberal tenets and most importantly, it gets me every time.
Enough about politics (this is but a small reason as to why I love this film), I think the reason that I hold this film such a high regard is because there exists a world outside of what the camera shows the viewer. Capra (aided by the other three screenwriters) has an intrinsic ability for sucking the viewing into this world and for me, once the credits begin to roll, I am ready to reenter it. I have to confess though, this is true of all Frank Capra films and not unique to just It's A Wonderful Life. Do not believe me, check out, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night or Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (God, I hate you, Adam Sandler). Perhaps, this notion is just me waxing poetic for a bygone age.
Listen to me prattle on. I will conclude by saying that even outside of my personal opinion this film is one of the greatest ever. Furthermore, it is a film that shows the impact or importance that a person has on one another and the inherent goodness of the individual. Is it a Christmas film with political and religious undertones, yes... Above all, it is damn good.