Choose your movie analogies carefully…

Lots of folks commenting on the John McCain ad depicting Barack Obama as “Dr. No” (here and here).  Regardless of the political “truth” of the ad, the visuals, music, and message all end up fighting amongst themselves.  The episode reminds me of how frustrated I get with movie analogies, especially when they miss… well… the point of the movie.

It’s a Wonderful Life seems to provoke many of these misses, probably because its conclusion overwhelms us.  Because of the happy ending, I’ve heard many folks blithely refer to it as a “feel good” movie. 

Huh?  What movie they were watching?  Roger Ebert hints at the turmoil that has built up in George Bailey when he refers to Bedford Falls as the “town he [George} wants to hate.”  As Bailey’s dreams get whittled away, the resentments pile up.   He so desperately wants to leave that even falling in love with Donna Reed is torture (now that’s a troubled man). 

Even the good things he does are tainted by memories of what he could have had.  Remember when George and Mary attend the Martini’s house blessing?  A sweet scene, but it is closed with the vignette of Sam Wainwright stopping by with his plastics wealth, his big limo, and his new wife on the way to Florida.  At the end, George looks broodingly as Sam’s limo drives away, then silently walks to his own old car.

The movie gets harder for me to watch, but I find it more fulfilling with every viewing.  Maybe It’s a Wonderful Life is about despair, perhaps it’s about redemption, it could be a simple reminder to be grateful for what we have.  But much of it doesn’t feel very good at all.

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