It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) - Frank Capra

Every single human in this world dreams -- of fame, of wealthiness, of getting an education. For the case of George Bailey (James Stewart), it is leaving the crummy old town of Bedford Falls and seeing the world: Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. And then, he will build things. He will build airfields, skyscrapers a hundred stories high, bridges a mile long. For the case of George Bailey, this is his dream…. and it never came true.

George Bailey's father is Peter Bailey, owner of the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which for years has been battered down by the slumlord and majority shareholder Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). George's brother is Harry Bailey, a successful man who brings home a wife after college, and during World War II, he is awarded the Medal of Honor. As for George himself, he marries Mary Hatch (Donna Reed), who has had a long crush on him. They have four children, and immediately after their wedding, spent their honeymoon money on saving the Building and Loan from a bank run. Life has been stealing George's chances every time he finds one. It's A Wonderful Life is a magnificent film that follows George Bailey, whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, who then shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in Bedford Falls would have been if he was never born.

It's A Wonderful Life strives with one of Frank Capra's greatest strength, which is characterization. In this film, it is not George and his family being the cast of characters, it is the whole town of Bedford Falls -- from George's mentor Mr. Gower to Bert the Cop, from Violet Bick the town sweetheart to Martini the bar owner. Every single character has their own unique personality here and they have just enough to express what living in Bedford Falls is like. Believe me, after experiencing a white Christmas at Bedford Falls, I wish I can just jump through the screen and visit. Although some may argue that there are too many characters to remember, the web will reveal itself as each character pieces together the picture. The greatest part about this enormous cast of characters is that each one relates to George Bailey differently, exploring the full scope of Bailey's character and his behavior towards a variety of town folks. This helps us understand George more, believing in him and agreeing with him.

James Stewart is my favorite actor of all time, and he brought the compassionate George Bailey to life in this piece. Never once has he put himself before everyone else. He is a warmhearted man, a caretaker for every citizen in the town, a person who I would pray for if he goes through hard times. As usual, Stewart is recognizable by his famous voice -- the way he sounds like he is talking with a candy in his mouth and the way he mildly stutters at times. However, these are all devices to help us relate to his character more. He talks like your neighbor. He reacts to situations like your friend. He saves houses and money like your hero.

Mary Hatch is the greatest female character of all time, and is the "ideal wife" that every man in this world desires to have. Like George himself, Mary puts the people she loves in front of herself. Just minutes after being married, Mary gives up her honeymoon money to help George save the Building and Loan. There is no other response than to be touched by her acts of kindness in this film. She truly is a wonderful woman, excellently and beautifully delivered by the wonderful Donna Reed.

One of Frank Capra's most notable styles is the dialogue, the way the characters socialize. There is always dialogue overlapping dialogue. Noisy? I think not. Realistic? Yes, definitely. Personally, it is difficult to understand how the acting is planned, because every line goes naturally in response to another. It is exceptionally choreographed, with camera shots that go on for minutes and one would not notice because the camera simply follows the characters as they walk around in their conversations. Here, in It's A Wonderful Life, it is almost like Capra wants the camera itself to be a character. More importantly, he designs it so that the camera is us, the audience, making us follow the protagonist as he fights through his challenges. He invites us to become citizens of Bedford Falls before we even get to know this charming George Bailey. Frank Capra: Master of Characterization and Dialogue Chemistry.

Finally, and the reason why this masterpiece deserves a full score from this critic, It's A Wonderful Life delivers one of the most eternal morals in humanity: The fact that an individual can be so valuable and cherished by his/her loved ones. It is astonishing how one life can touch so many others, and how foolish it is to throw one's life away during times of frustration. George may have been through misery, with no wealth, but in the big picture, he truly had a wonderful life, and is the richest man in town. This heartwarming moral, which drives It's A Wonderful Life, has no stereotypes. It does not concern racism. It does not concern sexism. It does not concern age -- and most importantly, it does not concern its own "life," how long it can influence us in society. It is what keeps us moving forward, to be optimistic, to believe that things will turn all right in the end, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we must stop to appreciate everything that we do have, instead of wallowing in grief of what we do not have. No matter how many times I watch It's A Wonderful Life, its content lifts my spirits, especially during Christmas.

It's A Wonderful Life is the greatest film to share on Christmas. Yes, far stronger than Miracle on 34th Street. Agreeing with the American Film Institute, It's A Wonderful Life is also the most influential film of all time. It is the greatest gift to give to any loved one, guaranteed to warm one's heart on a beautiful Christmas. It may just be moving enough for you to shed a tear of happiness.

In conclusion, It's A Wonderful Life is, in this critic's opinion, the greatest film of all time. Its excellence in acting, directing talent, characterization and dialogue immerses us into the world of Bedford Falls as well as the affectionate mind of Frank Capra. It is a film that every person needs to see. Just as how life is God's greatest gift, the moral of appreciating life is the film's greatest gift -- open to share and touch everyone's hearts in this world. Finally, Frank Capra has given us the greatest gift in the movie industry, the masterpiece that is It's A Wonderful Life. Watch the film. Bless your "George Baileys." Cherish your family. Love your friends, and live your life to the fullest.

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