Time: 130 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Picture.
SYNOPSIS: An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he never existed.
BOTTOM LINE: Though I only saw this film all the way through for the first time a few years ago, it has become one of my all time favorites. A film to watch whenever I feel a little down about my life. I initially avoided it because I though it was going to be one of those sappy movies about how important life is and all that sentimental garbage...which on the surface it is. However, through repeat viewings what I've discovered is an endearing love story, a poignant family drama and an intelligently crafted film about personal sacrifice...as well as the importance of an individual life in the grand scheme of things.
George Bailey is an ambitious young man forced by circumstances, usually the troubles of various family members, to put all his hopes and dreams on the back burner in order to make the lives of those around him better. When his hopes are dashed yet again, he becomes so frustrated with the lack of control over his own future, he desperately wishes he'd never been born. What he discovers through his amazement and the help of Clarence, an angel attempting to get his wings, that his life held more meaning than he ever realized.
What keeps this from being hokey is Stewart's amazingly controlled performance, a great supporting cast and a well-written, interesting script. His frustration is palpable and heartbreaking. He's a good man we want to win just once and you're drawn into his story because his life could esaily be yours. In the end, he sees how necessary he is to the people around him and that this is the life he was meant to lead. His story makes us realize that our place on earth isn't an accident and to appreciate the good in our lives. A simple message told elegantly, intelligently and with a whole lot of heart that never gets old.