It's a Wonderful Life : Review

I know... I am 64 years late in reviewing the film. After being pestered by Amrita for almost 6 months, I did watch it finally. I am glad, I did.  And I am glad I can't stop myself writing about it... after all, it's not every day that you watch such a simple gem.

Directed by Frank Capra, It's a wonderul life is the story of George Bailey (played by James Stewart), a do-gooder on the verge of committing suicide. After hearing the prayers of his family and friends, the god sends an angel to save him. 

Now we all know, how the story will end. But believe me, it's not about the simple story or the simpleton protagonist. The movie is about us, about our struggles, about our frustrations, about the hard life and about everything the wonderful life brings. It's about the most basic principle of the life, humanity.

The film starts with an Angel Second Class who is waiting since last 200 years to get his wings. The only way to get his wings is to stop George from committing suicide. Before sending him to the earth, we are shown the glimpses of George's earlier life in which he saves his kid brother from drowning, saves the local chemist from prescribing poison to a kid. George's father runs the Bailey Building and Loan association which is vital to the residents of Bedford Falls, a small town. The reasons for running Building and Loan are not financial ones but to save the town from going in the hands of Mr. Potter, a shrewd and scheming businessman who aims to control and own every visible property of Bedford Falls. 

George dreams of conquering the world, becoming an adventurer, building skyscrapers and long bridges. He discusses his plans with Mary Hatch, the girl who secretly loves him since he was a boy. However, he has to wait till his brother is ready to take his place at Building and Loans. On the graduation night of his brother, his father dies of a stroke. Mr. potter, who is now a shareholder in the company convinces the board to stop providing the home loans to poor people. George fights to save the company but the board agrees to him only on one condition, George running the company. This shatters all his dreams. He sends his brother to the college while continuing with his father's dream. From here, starts his long struggle to save the town from going in potter's hands. Every time, he has a chance to leave the town, a tragedy takes place and he is forced to stay back. He becomes the prisoner of his father's dreams and his goodwill. When his brother returns from the college with a bride and doesn't show interest in staying in town, George accepts that he will never be able to leave the town. Every dream that he saw of himself is being lived by his younger brother Harry. Harry goes on to get the congressional medal while George struggles to stay afloat during the depression and world war. Finally, the loss of eight thousand dollars (which was to save the company from bankruptcy) by an uncle snaps him. He breaks down. 

Clerance, the angel, stops him and shows him the life that would have been in Bedford without George. He sees the town(now Pottersville) and is shocked to see what life could have been without him. He then understands that although the life is not as beautiful and adventurous as he had dreamt, it still is wonderful. And the best part is, although he could not do what he had always wanted, he still had made a difference to the lives of hundreds in the town. 

The film's beauty lies in it's simplistic and wonderful message which was also seen in Capra's other movies It happened one night, Mr Deeds goes to town and Mr. smith goes to Washington. You can relate him to Hrishikesh Mukherjee (although Capra came a lot earlier than Hrishida) and now when I think of the Hrishida films, I sense they might have been influenced by Capra's films.

It was a shame that this movie didn't do well when it was released.... and it's still a shame that the movie has been typecast as a Christmas movie... 

... and as I said... what makes the film great is it's simplicity. The town of Bedford Falls is so believable, it almost becomes a character of the movie. It is difficult to create a character like George.... but it is the even more difficult to create affable characters like Bert and Ernie (who play George's friends in the movie) which Capra does with ease.

... there are a lot of scenes in the movie which will leave a lasting impression on you and for days you will talk about it... like the one in which George goes to Mary's house to talk to her ... and ends up fighting with her... and finally kissing her... it shows everything his life is.... George's attraction towards Mary... his frustration of not becoming what he dreamt of... his desire of leaving the town.... and his love towards Mary, town, his family and everybody he has ever known.... watch this movie for this scene... watch it for the scene when George and Mary hit the old house with stones... and yes watch it for scene that involves their daughter Zuzu's petals.

and just like Zuzu's petals.... life, really, is wonderful !!!

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