Friday, December 20, 2013

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: It's a Wonderful Life

KISS/Modern Tempted author Heidi Rice shamelessly plugs her new Harlequin POP book (out in January) while getting all dewy eyed about her favourite Christmas movie.

Not a lot of people know this... Yet! But in between writing romance I also work as a film journalist, which is why I have a book coming out in Harlequin E's new POP imprint in January. Movie Bliss: A Hopeless Romantic Seeks Movies to Love is basically me waffling on about some of my favourite films in an entertaining, humourous and informative way (honest) for any romance junkies out there in need of the perfect movie fix....

So here's a sneak peek of a review from the book... Which rather conveniently also allows me to get in the Christmas spirit and celebrate my favourite Christmas movie ever (clever, huh?).

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):
How a Banker Steals My Heart Every Christmas
Directed by Frank Capra
James Stewart as George Bailey
Donna Reed as Mary Hatch
Lionel Barrymore as Henry F Potter
Henry Travers as Clarence
Ward Bond as Bert

Whenever ‘tis the season to be jolly, I can never resist the opportunity to pull one of my all-time festive favourites out of the Santa Sack and spread some good cheer into the winter chill.

I'll grant you though, It's a Wonderful Life isn't exactly a chick-flick in the conventional sense — and James Stewart's suicidal savings and loan man is hardly anyone's idea of an alpha male. Consequently, Frank Capra's yuletide classic may not be everyone's idea of a film to make you drool over the festive season. But luckily, us romance junkies are about so much more than hunky guys, and romantic fantasies right? We’re so not that shallow. And anyway, I'd argue that this festive favourite does have a hunky guy in it — maybe not hunky in the Hugh Jackman-nekkid sense, but certainly hunky in the huggable sense. James Stewart, after all, is so the template for the grounded and gorgeous heroes of Harlequin’s heart-warming romance lines. And with those stories in mind, I’d also say that It’s a Wonderful Life may be a romantic fantasy but with a ‘it-could-happen-to-you’ integrity. Because this film is about the making and maintaining of a strong, resilient, wonderful marriage. It's about family and friends. It's about all those mundane everyday things that you take for granted but which give your life meaning. And it's about what happens after the Happy Ever After ... And how you make it last forever.

So, in other words, if this film doesn't leave you with a warm glow and a great big Ahhh wrapped around your heart then you'd have to be a close personal friend of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Alright, already, now I'm going to give you a  run-down of the plot - for anyone who has somehow managed to miss it on TV every Christmas for the last 50 something years!

James Stewart is George Bailey, the owner and manager of a small-town savings-and-loan which is about to go tits up. He wanted to see the world as a kid, had big plans to get out of Bedford Falls and make a name for himself. But George is a guy who's always done the right thing for his friends and family. So when he fell in love with the girl next door, he married her and had four kids. When his father died, he took over the family business even though he didn't really want to... And when his uncle Billy mislaid thousands of dollars of the bank's money, it's George who's set to take the fall.

And in amongst all the good things he did, in amongst the happy times and the tough ones, George lost sight of his dreams. And so when everything starts to collapse around him one Christmas Eve, George decides to take his own life. So far, so not so warm and fuzzy, I’m sure you’re thinking… But bear with me here.

For as George is about to take a header into the town's ice-filled river, up pops Clarence, a trainee angel to jump in first (yes, George is a bit miffed that he only warranted a trainee one, too). George, being George, saves Clarence before thinking about himself - giving Clarence the chance to get to work.

So what does Clarence do? He comes up with the cunning idea of giving George a glimpse of what good ole Bedford Falls would have been like if he had never lived. Yup, you’ve guessed it, Clarence has basically ripped off his cunning plan from Dickens's A Christmas Carol and given it a clever 20th-century twist. And what George discovers is pretty awful!

So what's the moral of the story?

Maybe it's that we should all learn to cherish the little things? Maybe it's that every life has value (even nasty old Mr Potter's, who hasn't got a single redeeming feature)? Maybe it's simply that when the chips are down, you should look at what you've got not what you haven't? All good advice and all very heart-warming (especially if you've just been down a heaving Oxford Street in London’s West End trying to do all that last-minute Christmas shopping you should have done months ago).

But what I love about this film, what never fails to send that delicious quiver of emotion down my spine is the way it portrays George and Mary's marriage, because at the end of the day, that relationship is the bedrock of George's life. Mary's a sweet, pretty, no-nonsense and utterly competent and patient wife and mother. She adores George, but she also knows him, inside and out - his waeknesses as well as his strengths.

And that makes them the perfect partnership.

That doesn't mean the kids don't get on their nerves, or that they don't get on each other's nerves, but it does mean that they love each other, and that they're willing to go that extra mile to make things work. George isn't the only one who's made sacrifices, he's not the only one who's had to work and struggle and keep things together when it would have been easier to let them slide. Of course, this being George's story, we don't see a lot of Mary's struggles, but they're there, especially when George looses it with her and the kids and then slams out of the family home - on his way to a date with the icy river and Clarence.

And Mary's the one who gets them their happy ever after in the end, because she tells all their friends and family of the trouble George is in. George being a bloke, of course, doesn't think of that one (must be something to do with that old Y chromosome 'asking for directions' thingy). And so the whole town chips in to help with a few dollars here, a couple more dollars there - and in the end it really isn't about the money, it's about the love behind it. Cue another great big Ahhh.

So, is George and Mary's marriage a romantic fantasy??

You betcha, but isn't it one we can all aspire to? And isn't that the same quality you love to unwrap in your favourite series romance? For me, the fast cars, the luxury homes, the designer wardrobe, even the glistening pecs, the awesome six-pack and the sex god abilities between the sheets are just the sparkly tissue paper. It's what's underneath that counts - the good, strong, steady dependable heart that's beating just for you. That's the real present, the gift you want that will keep on giving...

All right, Heidi's getting a little carried away now, but you get my drift. Especially if you watch this film on Christmas Eve in front of your bauble-laden tree and a roaring fire with either friends or family or the love of your life - or even just your favourite series romance - snuggled by your side.

Here's a scene to enjoy from the movie... Also take this quiz, if you happen to be an It's a Wonderful Life junkie too!

Heidi has two new ebooks out in the new year: Movie Bliss from Harlequin POP and her very first Cosmo Red-Hot Read, 10 Ways to Handle the Best Man. She loves to hear from readers on FB, Twitter (@HeidiRomRice, and thru her website and her blog.


  1. Oh me too Fiona... Can you tell by?? LOL.

    May have to force my munchkins to watch it again on Christmas EVE.

    H x