I had never watched this and I figured watching it on the plane, on my trip back home to India, seemed kinda perfect. Sure, it’s sappy and sentimental and even messagey on the surface but what really won me over really quickly was how appealing George Bailey is as a character. I had never quite understood the love for James Stewart and while The Shop Around the Corner helped me warm up to him as an actor, this film really clinched it for me. George Bailey is not just a perfect do-gooder but a genuinely interesting and charming character. The scene where he goes to the store to buy himself a suitcase is probably my favorite scene in the entire film.
I had always thought that this film would be full of American values and so on but I was actually surprised by how un-American it is in so many ways. It seems like such an indictment of the classic American Dream. It seems to suggest that the pursuit of wealth has a corrupting influence on people and that ambition and chasing your dreams is fundamentally overrated. I am not sure I agree with all that but the film definitely made me love George Bailey and I thought it completely earned the happy ending.
Oh and the “Pottersville” scenario is pretty fantastic. But I couldn’t help but think that it looked like a pretty fun place and not really nightmarish at all !