I now understand why I never got into It’s A Wonderful Life earlier in my life. The only time I was exposed to it was at Christmas, but calling it a “Christmas Movie” is a mis-characterization by today’s standards. The movie is so much better than that classification, calling it a “Christmas Movie” is the same as giving that title to Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.
Aside from the movie briefly opening on Christmas Eve, the first half of the movie is void of Christmas references, and “Christmas Spirit” aside from mentions of God and angels. The climax happens on Christmas, but the heart of the story isn’t tied to the holiday itself. The film could have been easily the same and carried the same weight had it happened on the 4th of July and the snow changed to rain.
Watching the film outside of the pretense of Christmas, it carries with it a different context. I’m not expecting the “Christmas Spirit” bullshit that litters all Christmas movies these days. I may be wrong, but I find most Christmas Movies these days end with talk of “Christmas Spirit” or “Oh, we’re a family, and we hate each other, but we’re family, so it’ll be okay,” or the entire movie is about Santa. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Christmas movie with an original message.
I’m getting off topic here.
I enjoyed It’s A Wonderful Life so much, that I hate that it’s limited by it’s references to Christmas as a Christmas Movie. The story is a great contrast to the last CinemaShame I posted: Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane was the story of a man who was greedy and lost it all even though none of it really mattered to him except one thing. It’s A Wonderful Life is the story of a man who was not greedy, and didn’t have it all, but realized he had what mattered most to him.
The acting is superb, as always, from Jimmy Stewart. I could watch Jimmy Stewart literally do anything. If they ever find a tape of Jimmy Stewart reading a year’s worth of grocery lists, I’d pre-order the Criterion Edition of that Blu-Ray. The little movements he does to express emotion is this movie is phenomenal, especially as he goes through the full spectrum of every emotion. He’s a character that is consistently the guy you wish you could be and you love him for it.
And the final scene. I never saw the whole final scene. Just the point, when his daughter makes the comment about the bell. But that scene. I’m not going to lie, it stirred me more than that jersey scene in Rudy. (I have so much more to say about Rudy, but that’s another time.) I’m not going to express the last scene, but it’s important to take note of your life and wonder: “Could that happen to me?” If the answer is “yes,” then you win.
One final thought on It’s A Wonderful Life – aside from that you should see it if you haven’t, and should preferably do it away from Christmas. I wonder how it would be received today given that the story relies heavily on God and angels. It’s hard to say given that recent movies like Heaven Is For Real seems popular in certain parts of the country, but not in others. If they ever remake It’s A Wonderful Life, which I guarantee has been discussed, I’m sure they’ll cut down on the religious aspects, but I hope they still carry the same message of the original. You may not get everything you want in this world, but if you live a good life, by good means, and help others, it’s the best way your going to live.