View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trashing "It's a Wonderful Life"????

There's a piece in the New York Times that "trashes" It's a Wonderful Life.

That's right - trashes one of my favorite movies.

Wendell Jamieson, the author of "Wonderful? Sorry, George, It's a Pitiful, Dreadful Life," wrote, “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.

Did he miss the point of the movie?

It's a story of redemption, of love, of family, of self-sacrifice, of generous caring people who band together, of realizing there is more to life than the world's definitions of success, of the power of prayer, of the infinite web of connections among people, of the many consequences of our seemingly individual actions. It gives us a glimpse of a caring God who uses a foolish and flawed angel like Clarence to help save George.

And George is like so many of us. Sometimes jealous, angry, frustrated - caught up in dreams and missing the point of what's real until his eyes are opened. Trapped? Only if you believe this short stay on earth is all there is. The movie lets us know that there is more.

George Bailey is a basically decent man who is richer and more successful than Mr. Potter.

Now it would be easy to launch a diatribe against Jamieson. It would be easy to say that his view is typical of the selfish, self-centered coastal elite than does not understand most Americans and people of faith.

But I'm not sure how much of this piece was tongue in cheek (albeit, even in its humor revealing a sadly skewed view of the world). Jamiesen admits an affection for the movie, and even that when he first saw the final scene of the movie at age 15, "I felt a tingling chill around my neck and behind my ears. Fifteen years old and imagining myself an angry young man, I got all choked up."

"And I still do."

I also choke up every time I see it.

My reaction to this piece is that I could understand Jamiesen reacting as he did at age 15, but it saddens me that he still voices some of that view as an adult.

Maybe he needs a visit from Clarence.


Blogger KC said...

It's interesting to compare this movie with "Revolutionary Road", in which the main characters find themselves, like George, trading their dreams for a settled, "ordinary" existence which they find unendurable.

It seems that the key to happiness is to look for and find the joys of life in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. No life is perfect, but every life contains joys and blessings, if only we have the eyes to see them.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Thanks for the tip.

Yes, joy is there is only we have eyes to see.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Interstate Catholic said...

A great movie set in Seneca, I mean Bedford Falls.

10:23 PM  

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