Christmas On Film: Anger Management?

As the years move on, I see a lot more dissent on the value of the film It’s a Wonderful Life. I admit the movie has never made my list of favorites. Of the people I know, some seem to like it. Some tolerate it as a staple of the season. The setting happens to be at Christmastime. Seems like it falls into the category of Die Hard, right?

I think George’s tantrum unfolds in a disturbing way, and that seems to be where the problem is for the critics. They have a point, perhaps, on that score. I’m less convinced with the criticism of the character’s life choices–something I’ve noticed in a commentary or two this year. I think that goes a bit deeper than Frank Capra figured.

There’s a certain streak of cruelty in the farce in American cinema. Piling on main characters to break them–it happens rather frequently in comedies as well as what passes for drama. Mr Capra wanted to pile things on for a typical American middle-class man, and see how long it would take to break him, then piece him back together.

I think the outburst is an add-on. Good acting and writing could have portrayed George Bailey as a quiet, tormented drunk preparing to throw himself off a bridge.

I don’t have a problem with critics of an angry husband/father/citizen. This movie has been made a few times since, and those films reflect other visions of men and/or women, marriage, work, and self worth.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Christmas On Film: Anger Management?

  1. Liam says:

    Not sure if GB is an alcoholic (it’s his uncle that is obliquely portrayed as adjacent to being one), but the star turn of a character alcoholic of that period of post-war landmark films that is rarely picked up in reviews and criticism is Al (Fredric March) in The Best Years of Our Lives, with Millie (Myrna Loy) expertly playing the role of an experienced co-dependent in that regard (so much of her acting is in body language and careful pauses and silences rather than extended dialogue; it’s a crime she was never even nominated for an acting Oscar).

  2. My wife is a big fan of the Thin Man series, and the first thing I noticed was the drinking–the quantity and the casual indulgence of it. It’s kind of the fun part of alcoholism without the hitting bottom. Or hitting a spouse. Hollywood writers wrote what they knew, even things of which they didn’t have a full understanding.

    • Liam says:

      Also, the ceiling threshold for “social drinking” was higher in those times. As with smoking. World War II, if anything, intensified that, because alcohol and nicotine were made widely available on the home and war fronts, along with caffeine, as lubricants for desired productivity.

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