It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers
Directed by: Frank Capra
Released by: Liberty Films
Synopsis: Local hero George Bailey (James Stewart) is frustrated over his broken dreams and the hurdles he faces as a businessman, and decides to end his life. But a friendly second class angel Clarance (Henry Travers) stops him, and makes him realize that despite all the sacrifices he had made, George had indeed lived a wonderful life.
Review: In 2006, the American Film Institute named the 100 most inspirational films of all time, with It's a Wonderful Life being number one. In my honest opinion, the film is more than deserving of the title. George Bailey is the perfect image of the average American man. Many men, especially in today's harsh social life, have to sacrifice their hopes and dreams for the well being of their families, friends and even hometowns. The realization that everything has been in bane can lead to a lot of desperation, which is exactly what happens to George (played magnificently by James Stewart) one Christmas eve.
But thanks to the help of Clarence, George realizes that even if he gave up his dreams for the good of other he has created a great life not just for him but for those around him. His kindness and hard work is rewarded with the sympathy of his friends, and all of his problems are solved. This is a dream many people wish to accomplish, to realize that they have touched the lives of many and see the fruits of their hard work. Frank Capra presents this noble ideal in a fantastic manner. All characters ring true, especially James Stewart and Donna Reed, whose love is one of the biggest influences in the film's plot. Frank Capra was a master of ordinary characters facing the extraordinary, and It's a Wonderful Life presents his best characters ever. It says something when decades later people can look at the characters and say "Yes, I understand. I've been there…".
The plot is cleverly developed, starting with the prayers of George's friends and family, and then presenting us his life so we understand why it's important for him not to jump from the bridge and how things would be if he had never existed. It's a classic plot that has been used, parodied and imitated for decades now; cementing It's a Wonderful Life's legacy forever as an inspirational film.
If there's one thing that could be said against the film is that it might be too saccharine for some. Far more cynical people might feel as if George's efforts have been glorified to the point where he is a holy hero. Mr. Potter also comes off as a cartoony villain, utterly greedy, uncaring and manipulative. These elements might make the film too silly to be taken seriously.
Regardless of how audiences view the film, there's no denying that It's a Wonderful Life is one of the best films ever made. It's a testament of timeless storytelling and how one film can inspire generations of audiences with its noble characters and wonderful story. If you ever feel like jumping from a bridge, stop and remember what George learned. That one's best efforts are never forgotten and eventually rewarded in this crazy world of ours.
Rating: 4 filmstrips out of 5