It’s a Wonderful Life

1946, meet 2008. Times are tough in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (screening through Thurs., Dec. 25). Banks are failing. People are losing their homes. Veterans are returning from a bloody war abroad. Families are falling apart. And all these stresses converge during the holidays, when there may not even be enough money in the household to buy any presents. Sound familiar? In the GI’s 38th-annual screening of this seasonal classic, the distressed town of Bedford Falls could today be Anytown, USA. And beleaguered banker James Stewart could be any small businessman struggling to remain solvent amid our current financial crisis. If It’s a Wonderful Life is arguably the best Christmas movie ever made, that’s because it’s certainly one of the most depressing Christmas movies ever made. Our suicidal hero is given a future vision—courtesy of an angel (Henry Travers)—of bankruptcy, death, poverty, and evil, unfettered capitalism (hello, Lionel Barrymore). Even his wife (Donna Reed) ends up a spinster in the alternative universe of Pottersville. Before the inevitable tear-swelling plot reversal, the movie is 100 percent grim. Yet amazingly, 62 years later, it preserves the power to inspire hope for better days ahead. Let’s hope that 2009 is George Bailey’s kind of year. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Dec. 12-25, 6 & 8:30 p.m., 2008

 
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