So this year, when I watched “A Christmas Story” for the 1000th time, I thought again about what made this movie an instant classic. Why is there so much desire for this movie that it can be run continuously on TBS over the 24 hours of Christmas Day? Aside from the more obvious, uplifting story of Ralphie and his BB gun, the film is full of intelligence and wit on any number of levels. How many movies have you seen lately that are not afraid of using a phrase like “insensate evil”? How many movies that deal with a father who swears voraciously and a son punished for using the “F-word” – actually say none of them and can be watched by four generations in the same room, offending no one and enjoyed by all? This self-imposed censorship results in wildly creative solutions to dramatic problems and is one of the chief things that make this movie so delightful.
Speaking as a realtor, the house was just a house. No granite countertops, no Berber carpets, no new paint; the only stainless steel was in the silverware drawer. The battle over the lamp is the closest the parents come to caring about the appearance of the home in any kind of “designer” way. The home was functional, not competitive. Was there really a simple time like that –a time when a fly swatter or a can of Simonize for Christmas were acceptable gifts? A time when a wife and mother would be unaware of the consequences of dropping a bowling ball in the Old Man’s lap?
Their problems seem simple viewed through the perfect haze of film, but they were just as real as our own. Perhaps their problems had fewer “steps” than ours – a boy is deserted with his tongue stuck to an icy flagpole, the bully gets beat up, and we know that no lawsuits will result. In spite of all the fighting between the brothers (“Shut up, Randy!”) there is an unspoken loyalty that is very clear. There is a complexity to the parents’ relationship that spans the bickering over the electrical outlet for the Christmas tree and the battle over the leg lamp and culminates in the tenderness of their last scene gazing out the window at the falling snow. The turkey dinner disaster is salvaged by the Old Man’s quick thinking and turned into a cherished family memory. Is there a good-looking secretary at the office? Maybe. But one senses that the Old Man has his head on straight. Somehow, this film is utterly fiction and yet full of what we were and deep down, what we hope we still are.