An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.
The message in this film is one of courage and sacrifice for the greater good as George Bailey, a man with big ideas about seeing the world, continually forsakes his own desires to do what is right for the town. The second message is that each life important. No matter how insignificant we feel we are, we are all inextricably linked to each other and play an important part in the fabric of one another's lives.
Capra's direction is brilliant. His genius is bringing human stories to life in a ways that not only make a point, but that totally involve the audience in the lives of the characters. He is always extremely optimistic about the human condition. He is known for testing his characters with overwhelming adversity to make them struggle to triumph in a way that causes the world to change and the character to grow. For this reason his films were always crowd pleasers and this film was the best of all in that regard.
Led by Capra's understanding hand, the actors all did a magnificent job. Stewart's wide-eyed enthusiasm and boyish charm, coupled with an unbending strength of character made him the perfect folk hero. Donna Reed was lovely and charming and attained the right balance between being supportive and inspirational. The romantic chemistry between her and Stewart was subtle and charming. Lionel Barrymore was towering as the greedy old skinflint who was trying to take over the town. Thomas Mitchell plays one of my favorite characters, as the bumbling Uncle Billy in probably his most memorable role.
This film is number eleven on AFI's list of best films of the century. It was nominated for five academy awards and won none. It was swept in 1947 by `The Best Years of Our Lives', a great film that won seven Oscars that year but in my opinion was the lesser film. History has corrected that minor injustice by rendering `It's a Wonderful Life' an enduring classic that is viewed and loved by generation after generation. Of course, I rated it a 10/10. I can't wait to see it again this Christmas.
- Dec 6, 2000