Wednesday, December 22, 2010
It's a Wonderful Life
Right now I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and the brilliant Lionel Barrymore as evil Mr. Potter, who I imagine Scrooge would have become if never saved by the ghosts. I watch it every year at Christmas, reveling in classic tale of a man who's dreams never come true, but who discovers that his life has meaning after all. In fact, when the movie debuted in 1946, it was panned by critics as too sentimental and "sweet,"despite the fact it was nominated for 5 Academy Awards. But over the years, the movie has become one of the most beloved films of all time and is considered a master piece of American movie-making.
Directed by Frank Capra, famous for creating sentimental movies even by 1940's standards (You Can't Take it With You is one of my favorites), It's a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey, a man with big dreams that never come true because the needs of his family and the community of Bedford Falls always supersede his own. For the most part, George gives his time willingly, because he is blessed with a generous spirit. But when a crisis threatens to destroy his own life, George is filled with rage and in desperation considers suicide. That's when his Guardian Angel appears and through a series of miracles shows George that his life does have meaning and how much of an impact he has had in the lives of the entire town. It's the kind of movie that makes you cry at least twice, especially at the end.
Here's a clip from the movie, when George sees Mary again.
2010 hasn't exactly been a picnic. In fact, it's right up there with one of the hardest years of all, including 1996, when I got a divorce and discovered Queen Teen had medical problems. And maybe it's a mid-life thing, but I feel as if my life hasn't gone in any direction I had hoped for. Sometimes I swear I'm living someone else's life. When I was a kid, I didn't think about college, I planned to act and travel the world. Instead, I'm a middle aged mom working on a possibly useless Graduate degree, stuck in a small town, slowly putting on weight while I clean house and raise my daughter. I feel an awful lot like George Bailey, stuck in Bedford Falls, hearing the sound of his lost dreams in the roar of trains passing by.
George's dreams of travel and adventure didn't come true, but his life was far richer than he realized. He made a difference in the world, and he was allowed to see just how much he mattered. He had love and an entire town who called him friend, and when things were bleakest, they were there for him. As his brother said, George Bailey was the richest man in town.
So see the movie, and then think about your own life. I know I will. We may be surprised at how rich we actually are.