Madeline Potts is a certified member of Generation Z and in "Potts Shots" she'll be watching older movies she hasn't seen before. This week? It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
It's a Wonderful Life! I've heard about it being a beloved classic Christmas film but it was never in rotation in my home. We always gravitated to the ever so lighthearted Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, and after it's release Elf. As for my friends that did grow up watching the film they always had mixed reviews, from hating it to loving it so much they had to watch it multiple times during the holiday season. So in honor of the holiday season, I decided to give it a go and finally see what all the fuss around It's a Wonderful Life was about.
It's a Wonderful Life follows the journey of a young George Bailey from adolescence to adulthood from the perspective of his second-class guardian angel: Clarence. At the beginning of the movie, we find out that George is in trouble and it's up to Clarence to save the day and eventually earn his wings.
So what do we learn about George Bailey? We learn that as a kid George wanted to be an adventurer and as he grew older he never lost that spirit. George wanted to build infrastructure and travel the world to learn more about it. We also learn that George truly cares about the well-being of people when his father passes away he selflessly decides to take over his father's business and gives the money he was going to use for school to his brother so he can have an education. George also falls in love with a girl named Mary and even with his wanderlust spirit he decides to settle down with her. Even though he wants to travel the world he stays in his hometown to guarantee that old man Potter doesn't ruin the town he loves. He even goes so far as to forgo his honeymoon in order to give his money to the townspeople to guarantee that they have a roof above their heads when the Great Depression begins. Sure George is given temptation from Mr. Potter in the form of a job with a big payday, but he always stays true to his morals, never once giving in to his temptations.
George is a happy man and even though he gave up his dreams to guarantee the happiness of others you barely see him give in to that sadness until his uncle loses $8000 from their loan and building company and he is faced with the prospect of going to jail. He goes home that night and it is the first time we see George lose it, he is temperamental with Mary, there children, and even with their school teacher over the phone. He eventually leaves the house to go to Mr. Potter to ask him for a bailout and instead finds that his life insurance policy is worth more than he is alive. While contemplating jumping off a bridge Clarence comes to him and shows him how much he means to this town and George goes home to find all the townspeople have pitched in to bail him out.
So what did I think about the film? I thought it had a great message, no matter what there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. Sure it was campy, (and I was a little confused about George's business model) but I loved that he always stuck with his morals never once giving in to temptation. Sure George didn't get to live out his wildest dreams, he didn't travel the world or build skyscrapers but he found happiness right where he was. He found a job he loved, a wife who loved him, and a family that will carry on for generations to come. I think this movie is truly a reminder that, yes, you should follow your dreams but you should also take a step back and look at where you are, what you've built, and how your actions have affected all the people around you. You don't always have to be striving for fame and fortune to have a wonderful life.