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The Best & Worst Christmas Movies & Specials -- It's A Wonderful Life
Not if you're George Bailey
People look at me like I'm some kind of monster when I say this is probably one of the worst Christmas movies ever. If you are depressed or have the holiday blues, this movie will make you even more depressed. It is a depressing movie when you really think about it and realize George Bailey will never get the one thing he's always wanted; just to go out of town for the weekend.
Don't get me wrong. George Bailey has to be one of the most selfless and tragic heroes in cinematic history. He spends his entire existence sacrificing his own dreams to make the dreams of others come true.
The only thing George has wanted since he was a kid was to leave Bedford Falls and see something else of the world. He's all set to do it, but he has to give it up when his father dies and to stop Potter from getting his hands on the Building & Loan. He lets his younger brother, Harry, go off to college, but the deal is afterwards Harry will come back to run the Building & Loan and George will finally get his chance to see the world. Of course, Harry comes back with a bride who informs George her father has offered Harry a job, and George is self-sacrificing, so he lets Harry off the hook and is once again trapped in Bedford Falls. He marries Mary, whose been in love with him since they were kids, and is about to leave on his honeymoon. Then there's a run on the banks and to keep the Savings & Loan open he has to use the money he was going to use for his honeymoon, so he doesn't even get to leave town for his honeymoon. And when war breaks out, he can't even see the world by serving his country, because of an ear injury he got saving Harry's life as a kid, and he's declared 4F. In short, that town has got a stranglehold on George Bailey and it aint never letting him leave, even for a weekend.
Things finally come to a head when after years of self-sacrifice his Uncle Billy loses the bank deposit and George is facing prison if he can't come up with the money. It's the straw that breaks the camel's back and he lets everyone have it. He tells his Uncle Billy he isn't going to go to prison for him. Then he goes home and says words that should never come out of Jimmy Stewart's ultimate good guy mouth, "Why do we have so many kids." He even screams at his daughter's teacher for letting her go outside without buttoning her coat.
Truth time. Was anyone appalled by the way George acted, or did you feel for him and get exactly where this poor guy was coming from. Did you feel that in that moment you were him and you would have done exactly the same thing?
Finally, Mary and the kids make him feel lower than dirt, so he heads to the local bridge with thoughts of killing himself. Even in that he's selfless, since Mary and the kids would collect on his insurance policy.if he were dead. See what I mean about being the most selfless character in cinematic history?
Anyway, enter Clarence, his guardian angel, who jumps off the bridge, knowing George will, of course, save him. Then he shows George what his life would be like if he was never born, claiming George had a wonderful life, but the home truth is George made all these people have a wonderful life and without him their lives are crap. So is Bedford Falls which is now called Potterville. Seeing what the town would be without George, no wonder the town won't let him go.
George doesn't want to live again and possibly face prison because Clarence has shown him he has such a wonderful life, as the movie title tries to sell. He wants to live again so all the people he cares about, including that miserable town, have a wonderful life, even if it means he has to go to prison. Thankfully these people finally decide to pony-up after all George has sacrificed for them and come up with the money so George won't have to go up the river for something he didn't even do.
In some cases like the drugist, Mr. Gower, he kind of deserves to go to prison. Not only did he put poison in a prescription and nearly off a child because he was upset he got a telegram from the war department. He maliciously hit George on his sore ear and makes it bleed. I can't sit through that scene it sickens me so much. Instead of keeping his mouth shut and protecting the old buzzard, George should have gone to his father and told him what Gower did to him. And how does George know Gower won't make a similar mistake sometime he isn't around?
This movie has no theme of redemption like with Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Potter never regrets his vile behavior, he even keeps George's money and would have probably let him go to prison if it had come to that. We had no fulfillment of the hero's dreams like in A Christmas Story when Ralphie gets his Red Ryder BB gun. George never gets what he truly wants, which is to see some of the world. It's why I say this is a truly horrible Christmas movie.
What it is, unfortunately, is a realistic view of life. Sometimes the Potters of the world never pay for their treachery and get away with it. And sometimes no matter how good we are, our dreams never come true. Instead we have to settle for what we can have, instead of what we want. But around Christmas time we like to believe the world is different. The good guys get their dreams fulfilled and the bad guys either repent or they get punished for their sins.
That's not to say the movie doesn't have it's moments, and I even have a few favorite. I cry in spite of myself when the bell rings and Zsu Zsu saying, "Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his ring." George even helps Clarence fulfill his dreams. I was also surprised at how passionate the scene between Mary and George was when she finally gets the man of her dreams. That was pretty passionate for a movie taking place in that time period. But overall this movie is a not so pleasant slice of how dismal life can be at times when you're one of the people who never has their dreams fulfilled.
I'm not saying It's A Wonderful Life isn't a good movie; it's just not a good Christmas movie. When you sit there and think about it, it's just damn depressing.