It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Reviewed on 2007 December 24
I don’t know what Maxim was thinking, putting this thing on its list of worst holiday movies — wait, yeah I do. I think they decided it wasn’t “hip” and “edgy” enough. This isn’t about hip and edgy. This is about the curve balls life lobs at our heads (“pitches us” isn’t strong enough) and how one man dealt with it. I also think it could have worked set at any time of the year, but Frank Capra decided to make it a Christmas movie, giving us a wonderful holiday tradition (and getting a chance to use all that great new snow the studios just created).
George Bailey (I think Jimmy Stewart was tagged to play him while he was still in the womb) wants nothing more than to leave his small town of Bedford Falls and travel around the world, even as a small child. He loves his father Peter (Samuel S. Hinds) but chafes for him, watching him struggle to keep the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan going. The Building and Loan is the only place in town that folks can bank without further lining the pockets of rich, miserable Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a greedhead that could have given Scrooge a few investment tips. He watches his brother and his friends get on with their lives while he stays behind, manning the B&L and stifling the nagging feeling that life is passing him by. One Christmas Eve things come to a head and his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) has to intervene to save him.
I don’t have patience for treacly-sweet holiday movies where Christmas is “saved”, but this is the real deal. I tear up at the end every time. I feel like I’m there with George, plodding away and wondering why, and this is as much the fine acting from everyone as a good script. When I watched it again this season, I realized that with a few dialogue and set changes, the movie could be set in any year, but I’d still want to keep that amazing old-fashioned tree Mary Bailey was decorating.
Four chocolate morsels and a glass of eggnog.