David Fincher's "It's A Wonderful Life"

When I'm working on a project, sometimes I watch favorite movies to give me vivid examples of great storytelling. Tonight I watched The Game by David Fincher. This is one of my all time favorite movies. It's a redemption story. Some hate the ending while others like myself find it moving and mind-boggling.

So after watching The Game for the umpteenth time, I came to this conclusion.

This is David Fincher's It's A Wonderful Life.

Crazy thought, huh?

But consider this.

Both men have rich lives. George Bailey from It's A Wonderful Life is rich with family. Nicholas Van Orton from The Game is simply rich period--a multi-millionnarie. Yet both of their stories center around suicides. Both men end up trying to kill themselves.

Their youth is documented in unique ways: It's A Wonderful Life spends much time on this, detailing Bailey's life and his impact on others. The Game shows enough of Van Orton's youth in the opening montage. Yet both of their childhoods cast large shadows over their adult lives.

Both of these men are lost looking for themselves. Bailey has spent his life giving of his time and energy to the inept building and loan. He's worked himself to the bone. For what? Some might say a wonderful family. But he feels empty. Van Orton is the polar opposite, right? Or is he? He's financially set, but he too has worked himself to the bone. He's lost himself. For what? Who is he?

Both of these men suffer from memories of their father--what their father did to them. To George Bailey, his father built a dysfunctional building and loan only to leave it to him like a ball and chain. Then he dies unexpectedly. To Nicholas Van Orton, his father leaves him only deep scars from--yet again--an unexpected death.

Angels come across both of these mens' paths to help save them. To George Bailey, it's the lovable Clarence. He really is an angel, though he's somewhat misguided. Then there's Nicholas Van Orton's brother--who too is somewhat misguided.

George Bailey and Nicholas Van Orton both need to lose everything in order to find meaning. Both of them literally end up at graves where they have a crisis of faith. For George Bailey, it's when he learns that his brother died as a child, that he was never there to save him, that his brother didn't go on to become a war hero and save lives. Then there's Nicholas Van Orton, who ends up in a grave in the middle of Mexico, having lost everything.

Both of these men need saving. Both of them need faith. Both of these men need to understand what they're living for.

And at the end of each story, they end up surrounded by all the people in their lives. They're literally shown the difference they've made. They're reborn through their experiences, through their deaths. They wake up to find a different life than the one they left behind. They greet those in their lives with humility and thanks and grace.

They see life with a whole new perspective.

Both men are redeemed.

So, like I said--crazy, huh? Yeah, I know. Maybe I'm the only person to ever draw comparisons between Frank Capra and David Fincher. Yet I know many would agree with me that they are truly two of the most talented filmmakers to ever make motion pictures.

There are probably those who roll their eyes at It's A Wonderful Life with its angel and its mean ole Potter. Not me. I wipe the tears from my eyes at the end. Every time. There are also those who probably find the TWIST at the end of The Game to be preposterous, thus dismissing the entire film. To me it holds up every time I watch it. And when I finally see the talented actor Michael Douglas brilliantly break down at the end and hug his brother, I am moved.

In my bio line on Twitter, I recently said this about what I do: Take a flawed character in search of redemption, add a twist, then sprinkle in some genre flavoring. Isn't that what these two movies are? One is a Christmas story, one a tale of suspense. But in the end, aren't they the same sort of story?

A man finding redemption.

To me, it never gets old.

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