Film Review – Going in Style
Going in Style
Pleasant company. In movies featuring the AARP set that’s often all that’s required, that a movie be pleasant company. Entertaining, amusing, non-threatening, not challenging, mildly fun. The emotional equivalent of a warm blanket, a cup of tea, and a beloved pet in your lap. Movies made by and for the over 65 crowd are often designed to be straight forward fun. It can be seen as damning it with faint praise. But it’s not all bad either. Much like some movies are aimed squarely at a crowd under the age of 10, every once in a while Hollywood turns towards the other end of the demographic spectrum. And that’s where the new remake of Going in Style fits.
A remake of a movie from the 1970s which starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strassberg, the new film stars the equally notable trio of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. The original was amusing fun, but not necessarily a classic. The story of 3 senior citizens with little to lose who decide to rob a bank. The memorable image from the 70s version was the robbers sporting those cheap Groucho Marx fake glasses with the nose and mustache attached. They translate that image into our new trio sporting full head rubber masks of the original Frank Sinatra Rat Pack. Director Zach Braff tells the story in this new movie of 3 friends who are all retired living off of the pensions from their former manufacturing plant jobs. Lightly brushing up against real world issues, the protagonists find that their pensions are frozen as their former employer moves manufacturing overseas. Feeling cheated and facing fates such as house repossession or trying to afford Cancer treatments.Michael Caine’s character having survived a bank robbery at the beginning of the film becomes inspired to plot a robbery to regain their losses. So charming hijinks ensue as they go through a dry run trying shoplifting in the grocery store where Arkin’s love interest Anne Margret works. They quickly learn that they need help. Enlisting advice from a friend of Caine’s former Son-in-Law (Peter Serafinowicz in a pretty subdued role for him), they concoct a plan to hit the same bank that was robbed a month earlier. The last third of the film is that heist playing itself out.
Many lowkey jokes are made about these codgers taking on a high energy and risky venture. Arkin, while running away from security during their shoplifting, stops not because he’s scared but because he’s tired of running. A scene where they all watch The Bachelor together and are heavily invested in the outcome is funny. Freeman’s character is dealing with the concept that chemo treatments are working anymore and his time is limited. That illness comes up at an inopportune time during the robbery. Luckily, while Braff as a director is more workmanlike than showy, at least he keeps the proceedings in the realm of credible. These old men aren’t shown as completely idiotic or slapsticky or embarrassing. There aren’t a lot of jokes about bad hearing or incompetence. In fact, this movie is unusual in showing that elderly folks from a blue collar background can have above average intelligence and competence. Also, when it comes to spending an hour and forty-five minutes, these three really are pleasant company. All of them Oscar winners, I don’t think any of them are capable of giving a bad performance. They’ve all made bad movies. But even in roles like this that aren’t terribly demanding, these guys are at least fun to watch.
That lack of demand is Going in Style‘s biggest detriment. Whether you’ve seen the original or not, you know exactly where this story is going. Most every beat is predictable. Also, first with Grumpy Old Men and now this, is former sex symbol Ann Margret destined to be typecast as the love object of leading men over a certain age? This is Braff’s third film as a director. So far he looks to be making mild movies that don’t require too much of the audience. Thoroughly competent, but not particularly memorable. The biggest surprises are a couple of moments that subvert the usual story endings involving this many Octogenarians. There’s a funeral that doesn’t happen, a noble sacrifice that ends up not being required during the heist, and redemption for all of the characters that evokes classiness.
Going in Style is fun. Caine, Freemna, and Arkin are always watchable. Supporting players such as Christopher Lloyd and Matt Dillon seem to be having fun. And heist movies as a genre generally hook the audience. On the downside, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. This will likely be a staple on Sunday afternoon TV. Not bad though.