Despite record-high temperatures and the loquacious buzz surrounding the awards season, a familiar staple of the end-of-the-year in cinema is the tradition of holiday films. Each family or individual has their own (or none, if that’s your sort of thing), and they range from the action-filled “Die Hard” to the obligatory “A Christmas Story,” or my personal favorite, Billy Wilder’s timeless “The Apartment.”
One film that certainly secures a position on any listicle is Frank Capra’s lovingly clichéd “It’s A Wonderful Life,” a timeless classic about George Bailey, a local man in Bedford Falls just doing what we all are — trying to successfully lead his life. Bailey is seamlessly performed by Jimmy Stewart, and perhaps the role wouldn’t be so legendary if another actor had been in front of the camera. After his father passes away, Bailey is promoted to the president of the Building and Loan that his family owns, but faces similar crises to what small businesses must deal with today: corporate takeovers and being terrorized and overpowered by big business.
Bailey dreams of escaping his provincial life in Bedford Falls and traveling the world, but when he’s forced to deal with the issues at hand — debts, his uncle’s business mistakes, and taking care of his family — he considers another escape route: suicide.
The Nerdwriter analyzed various motifs in Capra’s film, such as the dilemma of individualism vs. community, as well as the issues of adventure vs. stability and the foils amongst characters (specifically the scrutinizing Mr. Potter and George’s wife, Mary). These motifs are inherently significant because not only are they issues we all face, but they’re never completely resolved — George doesn’t get to escape his life and travel to exotic places; he has to accept his fate like the rest of us mortals.
Now Capra is known for his mawkishly sentimental films, but the underbelly of “It’s A Wonderful Life” is chock full of resonating realizations for ages to come. Watch below.