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So What's So Wonderful?

Another post following up on Christmas... Somehow, I squeezed in my annual viewing of the Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life, but it didn't get my full attention between turns during a game of Scrabble. I wasn't fully engaged, so wasn't weepy during the usual scenes, probably a first for me. I did find myself speaking the dialogue as the movie played, so much of it permanently ingrained in my brain. But I'll have to pay more attention again next year. I'm still surprised when I read that some people can't stand the movie as they find it overly sentimental and saccharine. While I'll admit that's certainly true in a handful moments of the movie, it's more filled with romance, then frustration and dread, and especially during the 20-minute noir nightmare sequence, it's downright frightening. All of which I wrote about extensively last year.

I came across a few who have similar take. In his New York Times video feature review, A.O. Scott finds the movie and Bedford Falls to be a welcome holiday respite from our real-life Pottersville. Another Times article has an even more grim view:
Lots of people love this movie of course. But I’m convinced it’s for the wrong reasons. Because to me “It’s a Wonderful Life” is anything but a cheery holiday tale. Sitting in that dark public high school classroom, I shuddered as the projector whirred and George Bailey’s life unspooled. Was this what adulthood promised?
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.
This writer sees Bedford Falls as stifling and Pottersville as a lot more fun. Whether you agree with all his points regarding what would be George's actual effect on his town, or whether George would end up in jail anyway, his is an interesting look at the movie from another angle, and he certainly sees the dark side. Taking issue with some of that author's points, One GenXer envisions a sequel beyond the happy ending, to a troubled marriage for George and Mary. And this overview sees Wonderful Life as the most depressing of Capra's movies, comparing it to his other works. So, if you've been turned off by the angels, a cartoonish villain or the sugar-sweet finale, give It's a Wonderful Life another shot. There's a nagging discontent to satisfy any cynic, plenty of darkness to delight any Scrooge.

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