Hollywood is generally into people jumping on their dream dragons and flying off to happy-ever-afters with hope explosions and all best laid plans dancing off into a dazzling future.
And that's pretty much where You Can't Take It With You is coming from. Follow your bliss through two hours or so and you'll bump smack dab into a happy ending. Unless your dreams involve banking. In which case, you're boring, and should take up the harmonica instead.
The characters in the film are happy when they don't have any big dreams.
The characters in the film are happy when they pursue all their dreams.
In You Can't Take It With You, family is a matter of choice—and the more choices the better. Many of the people who live in Grandpa's house are blood relations, like his daughter Mrs. Sycamore, and his granddaughters.
But other folks just seem to have been passing through, like Poppins (who Grandpa collects at a real estate office) and Kolenkhov, Essie's dance instructor, who comes for dinner every night. Part of the reason the house is so sprawling and chaotic is because it's home to whoever wants to be there. If you want to be a lily, you're welcome.
Mr. and Mrs. Kirby care too much about their son.
Mr. and Mrs. Kirby don't care enough about their son.
Class in You Can't Take It With You is a little tricky. The Kirby's are obviously very upper class and snooty. But what about the Sycamores? They're figured as common folks, but they're not poor. They have a big house, servants, and enough income to live as they like without anyone having to work very hard. That makes them pretty well off, especially by the standards of the Depression.
The truth is, the difference between the Kirbys and the Sycamores isn't exactly class so much as disposition or culture. The Kirbys are well-off businesspeople; the Sycamores are well-off Bohemians — or hippies, if you prefer. It's not so much rich vs. poor as squares vs. artists. The artists, Capra the artist says, have more fun.
The film shows that having lots of money makes you bitter and grasping.
The film shows that having lots of money allows you to be carefree and pursue your dreams.
You Can't Take It With You is all about how you can't take it with you—or, in other words, about how wealth doesn't matter and money won't make you happy. Though, it's also true that wealth is pretty important; the fact that Grandpa owns his own house means that Kirby is stymied in his efforts to take over the entire block.
You Can't Take It With You might be read, not as saying that money doesn't matter at all, but as suggesting that you should spend what you've got on those who matter—friends, family, neighbors—rather than hoarding it for a future in which it will be worthless.
Mr. Kirby is a bad person because he pursues money.
Mr. Kirby pursues money because he is a bad person.