Without doubt, It’s a Wonderful Life is sentimental, emotional, even foolishly quixotic. It is after all, a Christmas film. It used to be the Christmas film, but times and attitudes change.
This year, I had the displeasure of watching the movie with a real Scrooge of a person who humbugged their way through the film. The film’s finale George Bailey’s exuberance was too much for this Grinch and it was than that I realized what a great litmus test this film made.
People unable to even hold out hope that their life could be a half as rich as George Bailey’s will never enjoy It’s a Wonderful Life. His emotions will make no sense to them; they will repulse. We don’t have to go running down the streets of our town screaming Merry Christmas to all we pass as we rejoice in a second lease on life to understand that at its very best each holiday season allows us to take stock of what we have and consider how fortunate we are to have all that we do. Yes, there is always more to be had and even more there are those who have far less. It’s a Wonderful Life, if it asks nothing else, asks us to remember to count our blessings no matter how many or few they may be.
For those who don’t see their blessings this film must appear a joke. And, that’s at best. For many, I fear the film just asks too much. It asks them to drop their cynicism. It asks them to care about something other than themselves. At worst, it asks people to change the way they approach life. Then again, it is only a movie, and were it any other time of the year and were this any other film I’d probably decry the film and puerile or schmaltzy. However, if we are to have one time of the year and one film that reminds us how our lives affect one another and what a great thing this can be, let it be this film and this season.