My closest friends and family know I couldn’t let the holidays pass without posting about one of my favorite movies and favorite movie characters of all time.
It’s a Wonderful Life is easily my Christmas movie GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), and George Bailey is in my pantheon of fictional characters right next to Phil Dunphy of Modern Family, Atticus Finch (although his character’s legacy took a hit with Harper Lee’s latest book), and Omar Little of HBO’s The Wire (“A man got to have a code”!).
I know many people find the movie sappy or kind of corny, and there have been tons of parodies of it and of Jimmy Stewart over the years, my favorites being the SNL “alternate ending”…
…and Jim Carrey’s obnoxious-but-still-kind-of-endearing Jimmy Stewart impression…
But even though the movie is cheesy to some and maybe writing about it is too, I figure if the shoe fits, wear that thing like a champion. The focus of this site and the inspiration behind it is so in line with the theme of the movie, that I’d be remiss to not point it out and have some fun with it.
At a quick glance, it’s the story of a man who grows up in a modest home but with a loving family, parents who are admired in their community, and a little brother who reaches something of a celebrity status for his athletic achievements in college. A few things that feel pretty familiar to me.
More precisely it’s about George Bailey, whose life is, on the surface, relatively insignificant when compared to his life-long dreams and aspirations for himself. After a mistake from his Uncle leaves George in financial ruin and facing possible prison time, George is on the brink of suicide. But a guardian angel shows him what the world would have looked like if he’d never been born at all.
The story is well known at this point, but I seem to take something new away from it every holiday season.
The plot is essentially a series of seemingly small moments in George’s life, but interactions that ultimately make an enormous impact on so many different people in his community and literally the world. From a flirty exchange with Violet Bick, to catching a mistaken prescription from Mr. Gower that saves a kid’s life, to rescuing his brother from drowning, to passing on college to save the Building & Loan. The climax of the movie exposes George to all of the influence he’s had on people over the course of his life, and it hits me hard every year.
But I also love thinking about the ways in which all of the other people in his life influenced him. How he finds pure love in Mary; hope and potential in his younger brother; admiration, grace and respect in his parents; even a crystalized purpose and a noble fight in his nemesis, Mr Potter. The film centers on George’s influence on others, but I like to think it just as easily could have focused on any one of the other characters and had the same effect.
The movie serves as a little reminder every year, to be more aware of those moments that may seem mundane and inconsequential, but actually could be an opportunity to make a positive and long-lasting impact. I want to believe that each of our lives does, in fact, make a difference on so many others, and even though it may sound silly, this movie keeps that hope alive for me, and opens my eyes to all of the amazing people and moments we might otherwise take for granted.