It’s a Wonderful Life is a special film for many reasons. It exudes positivity, has become a must watch film at Christmas and can bring the sternest of men to tears. However is it a film we look back on with rose tinted glasses? Dan watched the film again to decide.
Directed by Frank Capra and released post World War II in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life stars the legendary James Stewart as George Bailey, a young man with aspirations to leave his home of Bedford Falls, go to college and go on an adventure across the globe. However George has a tendency to put others before himself, and when people are in need he is always the first to help. As a boy he saved his younger brother Harry from drowning in an icy lake, leaving him with hearing in only one ear. And as an young man he saved his fathers business from the greedy hands of Mr. Potter, sacrificing college to do so and letting his brother Harry take his place. Despite all of the good George has done, one Christmas Eve he finds himself suicidal, looking to jump from a bridge because he thinks he is worth more dead than alive. Just before he can jump Clarence, his guardian angel, intervenes and shows him what life would be like without him.
Despite being close to 70 years old It’s a Wonderful Life still holds up to this day, not just because of its feel good factor but because it is a well crafted film and its five Oscar nominations demonstrate this. It is astutely directed and very well acted, James Stewart and Lionel Barrymore especially gave performances that have quite rightly went down in film history.
There are few films out there that are as life affirming as It’s a Wonderful Life, the film has a morality that resonates with the majority making it an annual tradition to watch the film. Even if people still don’t live like George Bailey after they’ve watched it, it still makes gives them a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside when they revisit Bedford Falls. Now one of the reasons this film is so rich with positive feels is that it is incredibly idealistic, and we are in an age where film is thriving in the grey area on the spectrum of morality. It’s overly idealistic nature is a double edged sword. When compared to modern classics, and actual life to a certain extent, it’s evident it is lacking a realism that would compound the films messages. On the other side of the sword there is a simplicity to its idealism that makes it very effective, and has people watching the film again and again.
After watching the film again I couldn’t help but feel a current of socialist undertones running beneath the films story, and especially the actions of George Bailey. Apart from the fact George is constantly helping people out often at the expense of his own life, there is a scene where George distributes his own wealth amongst the residents of Bedford Falls to prevent them from handing their lives and stocks over to Mr. Potter, a big corporate banker who made his fortune with shady dealings in the aftermath of WWI. Surprisingly I did a research on the film after I watched it again, and it turns out the FBI felt the same way back when it was released…
Due to the films recent success it has been observed, studied and been the focus of critiques many times and there are so many angles to look at the film from, but at the end of the day the film has a simple core and appeal. Regardless of how far film evolves in narrative, morality and undercurrents, It’s a Wonderful Life will maintain it’s simple, rose tinted appeal to those who want to watch the goodness of community prevail, the potential of unselfish humanity, and continue to be an annual tradition every year. It may have an idealistic observation of human nature, but is it a good film? Absolutely.
Check out our other articles from our 12 Days of Christmas!