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It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

by on 2011/12/29

“You better keep an eye on this guy, he’s bats.”

* * * *

I have managed, for all my advanced years, to never, ever see this holiday classic end to end.  Yes, I know, I know. It is hard to believe.

In fact, I am pretty sure I never saw anything more than Jimmy Stewart hoisting a cherubic child in a nightgown into the air while I was flicking through channels.

That was my routine every single holiday. Until this one.

Hacker Renders was appalled by this admission. He sat me down to watch this Frank Capra-directed movie once and for all. 

I think I finally get why I’ve been avoiding this touchstone for so long.

It is a story so poignant, it burns. It actually burns.

I knew I was in trouble when I cried less than halfway through the first act. When the movie was over, I was running the risk of dehydration.

I realize don’t like realistic movies that make me feel my own feelings. Give me a bloody slasher flick any day of the week, movies like It’s a Wonderful Life are the real horror films.

I feel like I know George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) very well. Very, very well. George is a man who always does the right thing no matter how excruciatingly painful that choice is. He’s not a man to take the selfish, easy road. He’ll choose justice, honesty and bravery over his own happiness.

Though life chews him up and spits him out, he keeps going until he just about can’t take it any more. George keeps on going, like a little Energizer Bunny who runs on pain.

That is until his uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) loses a huge amount of money and jeopardizes George’s Bailey Building and Loan Association, his family and his entire future.

This is the final straw in an entire hay-field of disappointment. George walks away from his incredible wife Mary (Donna Reed) and his beautiful kids, gets drunk and seriously contemplates a watery grave.

When an angel played by Henry Travers shows George what life would be like if he’d never been born… well, cue the pain. “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

If there were more people like George Bailey out there, with his essential decency, his heightened sense of right and wrong, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Do nice guys finish last? I hope not. I really do.

I’ll keep an eye on that nice guy to find out.

* * * *

130 minutes

Rated PG for the frank depiction of a good person getting drop-kicked by life, over and over and over

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