It's a Wonderful Life Reviews
It's A Wonderful Life
It takes its time to sink in and is a big turn off at the end since it becomes predictable but then it also offers a lot to think and a profound concept that also works as a satire.
Before I begin, here is a warning to anyone reading: I am running under the assumption that most people have seen this film, so here is my official SPOILER WARNING for It's a Wonderful Life.
The film begins in media res with a conversation between God and Joseph as they summon the angel Clarence, a second-class angel who is still trying to earn his wings. They inform Clarence that a man down on Earth, George Bailey (played excellently by James Stewart), is thinking of taking his own life, and task the angel with giving George the will to live again. In order for him to accomplish this mission, they show him what is essentially a recap of George's life, highlighting the key events of his childhood and early adulthood all the way to the present. This part of the film surprised me because I underestimated the amount of time that it would fill. When my dad described the movie to me, I assumed that the film would only devote about a half hour to this portion. However, this recap ends up taking about 1 hour and 30 minutes, which may sound like a long time (especially considering that the film's runtime is 2 hours and 10 minutes). Surprisingly, this part ends up being surprisingly entertaining and effectively adds hefty emotional weight to the film's climax and finale.
The look at George's life does wonders in character development, and it makes the audience feel for the protagonist in such a way that is rare in modern film. It first presents two events from George's childhood, one where he saves his younger brother Harry from drowning and the other where he prevents his boss, a druggist, from accidentally adding poison into a child's medical prescription. This demonstrates that, even as a young boy, George was already doing things that altered the lives of those around him. The film then jumps into his life as a young adult. Here, he is a man planning to travel the world to see places that no one in his small town could ever dream of. However, his plans are interrupted when his father dies and he is forced to take charge of his father's company, Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan. This introduces us to the film's "villain," Mr. Henry Potter, a greedy and soulless businessman willing to do anything and hurt anyone to increase his net worth. It also acts as a tribute to George's selflessness, a tribute that continues when he stays to operate Building and Loan so that Harry can go off to college and build a career for himself.
Once his brother returns from college with a wife, George reunites with his childhood crush Mary and eventually marries her. This was the one thing in the film that made me nervous, since I initially did not buy their relationship. Earlier in the film, George ran into her at his brother's high school graduation and was able to flirt with her, a scene that was cute and romantic. However, on the day that his brother returns, he visits her at her home and treats her poorly (taking out his anger about his current situation in life), and after a phone call with their old high school friend Sam, they realize their feelings for each other quickly. I did not feel their connection until the great scene that takes place during their wedding day where, in order to save George's business from the clutches of Mr. Potter, Mary offers up their honeymoon money without hesitation in order to appease the angry crowd attempting to withdraw deposits from the building. I loved this scene: it proves that the couple is equally selfless and share the same values, forming the foundation for a beautiful relationship.
The film's climax arrives when George's Uncle Billy, who helps George run Building and Loan, accidentally hands $8,000 to Mr. Potter wrapped inside of a newspaper on Christmas Eve. Mr. Potter, realizing that Uncle Billy was trying to deposit that money on behalf of Building and Loan, decides to keep the money. He knows that this could be the downfall of George and his business, and due to his long-time, deep-seated grudge against him, the old man stays quiet. This provides the basis for my intense hate for the character, as he acts as a representation of all seven of the deadly sins. Lust is represented by his want for money, gluttony by how much he consumes others' wealth, greed by his unnecessary need for wealth, sloth by his unwillingness to earn money fairly, wrath by his anger towards George, envy by the jealousy he feels towards George's happy life, and pride by the feeling he gets for ruining Building and Loan. The man is despicable, and he is easier to hate than almost any movie villain.
When Uncle Billy returns to Building and Loan, George realizes his predicament. He returns to his home, where he treats Mary and their four kids with anger and impatience. He ruins the family's evening, hurries to a nearby bar, and gets drunk. He then crashes his car and limps to a nearby bridge, considering giving his life, God's greatest gift, to the freezing, swirling waters below. This is when the story catches up to present events. Clarence, having learned all that he needs to know about George, appears before the broken man and jumps into the water, knowing that he is a selfless man who would save another person's life before taking his own. George claims that the world would be better off if he had never been born so, to prove him wrong, Clarence transports George to an alternate reality where, indeed, George Bailey was never born. This is when everything becomes clear to the audience. The seemingly pointless buildup that occurred for the majority of the film finally serves its purpose. Slowly, both George and the audience realize how his actions affected so many people in his past. Without him, Bedford Falls is run by Mr. Potter, and its residents are miserable. His brother died as a child, his wife works as a lonely librarian, Mr. Gower (George's boss from the drugstore) is in prison for manslaughter, and many of the people that George would have helped are either dead or living terrible lives. George recognizes every person he encounters, but no one recognizes him.
George realizes that his life means something and begs Clarence to bring him back. After running from the police and returning to the bridge, the world becomes correct again. George then happily greets everyone that he encounters, loudly screaming "Merry Christmas!" and forgetting about his woes. He returns to his family, greeting them more enthusiastically than ever before, and learns that Uncle Billy and Mary have raised enough from the townsfolk (who we realize ALL love Mr. Bailey) to cover the missing $8,000. He then reads the heartwarming note left behind by Clarence, which reads "Remember no man is a failure who has friends." The film concludes happily with a shot of George and his wonderful life.
This film still holds up as one of the greatest films ever created due to its resonant themes that still apply to our lives today and will always apply to our lives in the future. It reminds its viewers that every life, big or small, is worth something to the people that it touches. It also brings forward many, many tears, tears that I am not afraid to admit that I shed. On top of this, It's a Wonderful Life is funny, well-acted, well-scripted, and provides more than a few memorable scenes and quotable snippets of dialogue. It is also a very well-structured film, effectively utilizing its long set-up to make its audience care about its protagonist and his life. With memorable characters, a heartwarming story, and themes that are essential for every adult to comprehend, this film proves itself as one of the most important masterpieces of cinema. It's a Wonderful Life is fantastic, and it easily gets 5 out of 5 stars.
The key is to look at what we have. Not at what we want. George is always looking to the future at adventure. He looks past everything he has. It's when he has to see the moment, because it is shown to him, that he realizes what he has and what all that is precious is in his life.
George Bailey is in us all. We can learn a lesson from George Bailey. Live in the moment and appreciate what you have now, not what you want in the future. Appreciate the people around you and do not forget they are there.
Just a well crafted and nicely acted film. Illustrating quite well how "wonderful" life can be.
a beutiful movie for the holidays