|I finally have a reason to wear this shirt|
It's a period piece that takes place during some nebulous time in America that could be anywhere from the late 30s to the mid 50s. If any specific times or dates are mentioned, I certainly can't remember them, I don't think there are because part of the film's charm is how timeless it feels. As a kid, I didn't even realize that it was a period piece at all. It's so authentic -- and the themes and experiences shown are so universal -- that it just seemed like it could've taken place in Connecticut during the early 80s. Obviously, that would be a bad thing to say about a period piece that took place during, say, the Renaissance, but for a Christmas story about an American kid, it couldn't have worked better. Even the setting of the film is mostly nebulous, since it was ostensibly set in Indiana even though it was actually filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. It's just every city, and there's enough thrown in that everybody who watches it can relate to something.
The story is based on the stories and radio show anecdotes of Jean Shepherd, who also narrates the film. I've neither read his stories nor listened to his radio show, but is voice has become iconic and indelible, and his sense of humor and sensibilities are what make this movie so perfect. There was actually a sequel called My Summer Story, but nobody ever saw it. It's not a bad film, since it is also directed by Bob Clark and is written and narrates by Jean Shepherd, but it's just not the same. It's jarring to see the same characters all acted by new actors, even though they are all fine. Charles Grodin plays the father, doing a perfectly fine impression of Darren McGavin from the original film, while Mary Steenburgeon plays the mom and some Culkin plays Ralphie. It's ok, but it's a little less charming, a little less timeless, and certainly not a classic.
It also seemingly served as the inspiration for the classic TV the Wonder Years, what with the early Americana time period and the voice overs of an adult narrating his memories as a child. Although, The Wonder Years was as much inspired by Stand By Me as well, but I think both tales owe a certain debt to A Christmas Story.
But A Christmas Story is brilliant. If you've already seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't seen it, I envy the pleasure you'll have on your first viewing. It's so good, you might even watch 24 hours of it.