WYSW: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Ah, It’s A Wonderful Life. When you hear about it, you should think of snow, angels, miracles, the 30s, and the message ‘that one man can make the biggest change in another man’s life’. I was very expectant about this film, especially after reading so many positive reviews about it! But I do admit that I half-expected IAWL to be a stereotypical Christmas movie, complete with all the jolly holiday, Christmassy theme of love and compassion and morality, because, really, I think like that about all Christmas movies ever released! Post-watching IAWL, however, I was convinced that this is more than that. This I consider a pioneer for the seasonal films category. Of course you should watch it.
1. Superb casting includes James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, and more. The director? A man I came to admire, Frank Capra. He won an AFI Life Achievement Award, by the way - such an accomplishment!
2. Such a lovely plot that we all can relate to.
It’s A Wonderful Life tells the story of a gallant and lovable gentleman with a heart of gold we all call George Bailey (played by James 'aw shucks' Stewart), who becomes suicidal after encountering a problem that seriously threatens his peaceful life. George comes from a small town called Bedford Falls, and has a very big dream; he wishes to travel the world. But it seems that God has a different plan for him, because he ends up being stuck in his hometown running his late father’s business of loan and banking. He eventually marries the sweet Mary Hatch (played by Donna Reed, and believe me, they make such a cute couple) and they have four children together. Kind of like the ideal classic American family, I have to say.
Long story short, George is tested as he finds himself in trouble when his company lost a high sum of $8000 bank deposit by accident and is in danger of being charged for bank fraud, ending in some twenty years worth of prison and eventual bankruptcy. What will he do??
3. The story is unique as it uses flashbacks most of the time, elaborating in George’s major accomplishments and significant events that occurred during his early years to his midlife, before the ultimate conflict begins. These flashbacks seem to foreshadow what will happen and how George's story will eventually conclude, and is a very important aspect of the film.
4. That everyman character that is hard to find nowadays.
The film really focuses on George’s good deeds in his life, causing the audience to sympathize with Stewart’s character. George is said to have saved many lives and made quite some major impact in his hometown. When we reach the climax of the film (that’s when George witnesses and realizes what life would become if he doesn’t exist) we can see how different things are in Bedford Falls, how everyone is much more negative and depressed and the atmosphere is more grim. At this point did the resolution is made; George sees how sad and pitiful life is without his existence, and bam, he resolves, creating a solution to all his problems by simply embracing them.
5. Of course, the message is thick and morality rings loud in this movie. A lesson is learned that suicide is really a permanent solution to a temporary problem, because George Bailey in the end manages to pay for the lost $8000 deposit anyhow, and he appreciates life more now that he's seen the world in a different perspective other than his own.
6. Bailey and Mr. Potter: like the good versus the ugly... with an angel in between!
I absolutely love James Stewart as George Bailey. He really gets into his character, causing the audiences to not only sympathize with him, but also adore him to the extent that they wish there is a George Bailey in their own life. I wish there is a George Bailey in my life. And Lionel Barrymore as the evil Mr. Potter is just perfect. Nasty, antagonizing, heartless with all his acts. Like an angel compared to a devil, they are! But speaking of angels... Henry Travers is quite the scene stealer as well, playing as the quirky Clarence Oddbody, George’s guardian angel who showed him what life would become if George doesn’t exist.
7. Significantly, historically and culturally memorable.
This film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, although it won none of the nominations. It is also a part of the American Film Institute’s 100 best films ever made (not sure which position it ranked), for being extremely influential, significant and inspirational. I would recommend ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ to anyone, really, for its awesome plot, awesome characters, awesome theme and touching morality. To me, this film really does inspire you to do more good in this decadent world! Like a light in the darkness... (no I'm not exaggerating!)