…I’m reasonably sure there’s a post about It’s A Wonderful Life for very nearly every year this site has existed. This is the 2008 version, spawned largely by this excellent piece from the New York times that points out something I’ve long kinda kept under my hat:
Capra’s film is really about the loss of dreams, and making do with what you get.
George wanted nothing in his life more than to escape boring old Bedford Falls, and is thwarted at every turn. He was denied even his generational globe-trotting (if harrowing) war-travel birthright because of his ear. Moreover, it’s not just the Universe giving George the finger; it’s his own family — his brother welshes on their deal, and instead of returning after college to run the B&L (and allow George to get his degree, too), he runs off to get married and work for his new in-laws somewhere else. When the crash comes, even hopes of a temporary escape collapse as George and Mary use their seed money to keep the B&L afloat.
From the NYT piece:
âItâs a Wonderful Lifeâ is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.
He’s right. And yet still we watch it. It’s a horror film in many ways, but one where the monster isn’t Jason or Freddie; instead, the thing under the bed is a stultifying hometown filled with people who love you. How twisted is that?
(Also amusing: I followed that article to the Wikipedia article about Gloria “Violet” Grahame; hers was a sordid Hollywood life, and included a number of paramours — as well as the distinction of spawning children by both Nicholas Ray and, later, Tom Ray — her former stepson. Wild!)