I discovered this Christmas movie while living alone in an off-campus apartment my junior year at University of Texas in Austin. The local television station got the reels mixed up so I watched it out of order several times until I had pieced the story together through multiple viewings. This was, in fact, my first binge watching experience and I was not unique.
The total abandon of concern for the showing of this film in its intended form across the country is one of the reasons it became the most universally beloved Christmas movie of all time. A generation of students, like me, fell in love with an old movie that was not considered "good" or “ valuable” at the time but through the viewing audiences of the70’s (the same audience that launched SNL) and the opportunity to binge watch whatever the networks felt was cheap to show, 50 years of children of all ages have been inspired by the magic of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
Directed by the brilliant Billy Wilder, and poorly reviewed after it's 1946 premier, it tells the story of a suicidal everyman who loses faith in himself and his life after an unfortunate financial mistake is made by his memory challenged uncle. A fictional town called Bedford Falls is the backdrop for George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) who has lost faith in himself and his life. Donna Reed's Mary Bailey, the wife for whom George promises to lasso the moon, is the personification of charm and down to earth goodness. In a performance that glides from teenage swagger to adult despair with ease, Stewart personifies everything hopeful and hard about life.…the promise of joy and the inevitability of reality. The only one who can save him, it turns out, is a second class angel from heaven named Clarence. Being a second class angel has left Clarence in the fortunate position of earning his wings if he can come to earth and show George Bailey why his life, flawed as he perceives it to be, is a gift.
If you haven't seen this movie, it could change your life. If you have seen this movie, watch it again to be reminded that though life is messy, chaotic, unpredictable and strewn with expectations that may never be fulfilled, we are all surrounded by angels dressed as friends and family who occasionally embarrass us and save our asses and listen to our perceived failures and remind us by their presence, "It really is A Wonderful life."