By: Marielle (Three Beers) –
Traditionally aired around Christmas (even though most of it is not strictly centred on the holiday), It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic black-and-white film directed by Frank Capra in 1946. If you’re like me and haven’t had it playing in the background of your house at Christmas twenty times, the basic premise is that space angels in the form of celestial bodies are viewing high- and low-lights of a small town man’s life because he wants to kill himself on Christmas Eve, and one of the space angels can earn his wings if he stops him. Basically. James ‘Jimmy’ Stewart stars as that desperate man, George Bailey, and Donna Reed plays his hot wife.
Celestial Space Angels negate scripture, and, therefore, the entire Christmas story.
The film explores universal themes like the existential freak-out one has over wanting to do great things and not just sit in an office scrutinizing over saving your boss pennies a day, as well as the dilemma of said boss being an arrogant sack of money.
My hair fell out to save me money on shampoo.
What have you done for me?
There are some great funny moments, like when Mary (Reed) runs out of her bathrobe and hides in the bushes, and George starts to riff on why he shouldn’t give her robe back (“I could sell tickets!”). How someone runs out of their robe and why this was a highlight the angels chose to view are questions for the ages.
What would we ever do without this man in our lives?
There is some unintentional humour as well, like when George is wandering around the town in the alternate dimension where he doesn’t exist and some things have actually improved…
Wait, there’s only 20? Inform me when you’ve gathered a whole gaggle.
The overall message is one that everyone should take note of: no matter how crappy your life seems, you affect others in meaningful ways that are not obvious. You’re important and your life has value that transcends your understanding. Also, you should only help people if you’re getting something out of it like a righteous set of wings.
Depression can hit anyone–not just those who have faced terrible tragedies. The stagnant life of a middle manager with a pretty housewife and a handful of dumb kids living the American dream day in and day out can be pretty terrifying, too. While it’s perfectly understandable that George abandoning his dreams and sacrificing his happiness for others has led him to a crisis, you might need an additional beer to nurse whenever it occurs that “hey, this dude’s life isn’t that bad!” In fact, it seems pretty standard, and we’re not all dramatically throwing ourselves from snowy bridges and ruining everyone’s holiday. But, you can’t always focus on the true value of the things you have. Sometimes, you want to be alone, and to have your damn wiener kid stop putting tinsel on your head when you’re having a nervous breakdown.
Would you guys give me, like, five minutes?!
I always assumed that the bulk of this movie was George Bailey being shown how his absence affects everyone he knows and loves. Rather, three-quarters of this 130-minute (!) movie is dedicated to showing the selected vignettes of his life. I found that it really drags by the middle and wish there was a more even split between set-up and alternate-dimension-space-angel-touring. I stopped paying attention a few times and missed a couple of plot points and wasn’t interested enough to go back. My drifting thoughts about unfinished holiday shopping and BBQ chips seemed much more important.
There’s also a problem inherent in the premise. The angel shows George how his absence dramatically changes his family’s lives and those of the townspeople, and he gets increasingly upset by the things he’d be missing. But, if he never existed, there’s nothing to miss. And more importantly, he wouldn’t be around to be upset about the things that never existed. But, hell, every good sci-fi needs a mind-bending paradox!
If I didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have to hear about your stupid flower.
The film remains a classic because its themes resonate to today, it has an important moral, and it’s nice to experience some olde timey goodness once and awhile. However, repeated viewings of this overlong feature would get old fast, so stock up on some extra winter ales while you decorate the tree and have this playing in the background.
Take a Drink: for every seemingly cliché moment that’s actually an original circa 1946.
Take a Drink: whenever you see the crow.
Take a Drink: for every old phrase that has no applicable meaning today, ya garlic-eaters!
Take a Drink: every time a bell rings.
Do a Shot: for every non-white person who appears.
So, the maid.