THE FAMILY MAN: “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Wake-up call”: “a shocking event that changes the way someone thinks; an event that alerts people to a danger or difficulty; a portentous situation that brings an issue to immediate attention.” [This metaphoric term originated in the second half of the 1900’s for a telephone call arranged in advance to awaken a sleeper, especially in a hotel. Its figurative use dates from about 1990. ]

Once more–again: “What are the best Christmas holiday movies?”

I wouldn’t want to be left home alone to watch the bad Santa; however, I am a die-hard fan of being in love–actually. I do believe a miracle, which might occur in New York on 34th Street. Or even in New Jersey, in 2001, thirteen years ago, where Jack and Kate live, thirteen years after he did not board a plane to London and to a wonderful life.

The Family Man

The Family Man is a Christmas story, somewhat about the holiday many peoples of the world will observe. Jack’s movie-story really begins when he goes to sleep, on Christmas Eve. Does he dream, or have the nightmare before Christmas? Or is the story simply a glimpse of “what if”? He says, “One morning I woke up and it was all different.”

We have been scrooged with this kind of “what-if?” story before, in literature and in film. And the endings? “Then I woke up”: that cliché line given after a person relates a dream to another. Yet sometimes, how real it all seemed. And in the telling, the listener, usually our listener friends, wants to know: THEN WHAT HAPPENED?

“Then I woke up.”

What a great line. The older we get, I believe, the wiser or more aware of our lives, if we examine them. This includes especially into the teens when a mom or dad shouts/argues/exasperates, “Do you know what could have happened? What if . . . ?”

Then, as we age, we do have second thoughts about a decision we made, and wonder whether we made a wise choice. Maybe we even want or need second chances. Often we are given a second chance, or are rehabilitated, or do have it to do over (though instant replays are not often present to overturn our lives).

Where would I be if…? Where would I begin to re-live or re-begin, or even want to change how it would all be different?

For some, ONE event/moment with awareness of the implications or consequences can or will be the “wake-up call.” Some others have to be “hit over the head” with the truth.
In the film, acted out honestly and characteristically as Nicholas Cage and Téa Leoni do in this movie about lives and family matters and friendships and jobs and careers, what would be that ONE event/moment for change? And then he woke up. And then?

What a profound, unscrooged Dickens film. This is a “big-people” movie. “Hilarious”? A comedy? As, All’s well that ends well?

As I think about what I have written, or as I write this, music keeps playing in my head: “Chances Are”:

Guess you feel you’ll always be
The one and only one for me
And if you think you could
Well, chances are your chances are awfully good.

Here is the motif, for me, which permeates the film. Taking chances, but then consequences. Maybe best not take that road less travelled by. Or maybe do.

So, the film ends for me, during this special season, despite all the sadness in the world, within people, between people/peoples, among families, concerning bitterness and rivalries, that chances are, positive. That it will work out…one way or another. And we pray for peace on earth, for that someday. Someday chances are awfully good. How? It’s a mystery, but it’s a wonderful life/world. [Music plays: “Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world. Oh yeah…”]

© James F. O’Neil 2014

“When I consider how my light is spent”? –John Milton
Jack says: “I don’t have it all figured out.”

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