Going in Style Offers Dubious Lessons but Plenty of Heart
- Debbie Holloway Contributing Writer
- 2017 7 Apr
Tiny nuggets of wisdom abound in this low-stakes heist flick about three broke geezers who attempt to rob their local bank as a final huzzah before their houses get foreclosed and their health deteriorates too far. A fun but simple genre flick, Going in Style gets 3 out of 5.
Willie, Joe and Albert (Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin) live in north Brooklyn and would have pretty peaceful lives if it weren't for money. They play bingo, join the local veterans group for dinner, and volunteer at the family carnival. But their measly pensions from working at a factory for decades aren't enough to allow Willie to travel to visit his family, to keep up with Joe's mortgage, or for any of them to truly enjoy retirement and old age. All three are getting desperate for funds, and when their former employer abruptly destroys the pension fund for retirees to pour money overseas, Joe gets the idea to rob a bank and "stick it" to the big businesses that only seem to get larger at the expense of the poor and elderly. Once he can convince Willie and Al to come aboard, their plan kicks into high gear and they prepare to execute the escapade of a lifetime.
This film could alternately be titled, "Three beloved actors have shenanigans all over town" because the trio of friends is certainly its anchor. Per their type, Freeman is gentle and adorable, Caine is tender and spunky, and Arkin is grumpy and feisty. Their interaction will bring a smile to the face of anyone who enjoys the dramatic talents of these legends. Other delightful cast members of note include small roles by the equally legendary Christopher Lloyd and the consistently hilarious Keenan Thompson.
The film also does a fairly good job of reminding the casual viewer the difficulty of aging in a culture and country which places almost no value on the lives, or quality of life, of the elderly. It can be easy for the young and able-bodied to flit through their days without taking time to develop empathy for the aging, but this movie serves as a tender reminder.
The movie is no classic, and hasn't quite the spark that many enjoyed in the original 1979 movie with George Burns and Art Carney. Characters, plot and messages are all fairly simple, with maxims such as "everyone deserves a piece of the pie" and "you tell your momma that her career isn't as important as seeing her family." These aren't negative elements inherently, but they keep the film pinned down to fairly bland popcorn fare, rather than anything particularly innovative or memorable.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
On the surface, it's easy to see this film as a prime example of, "Do as I say, not as I do." We get the feeling we aren't meant to mimic the actions of the trio (stealing, for instance), but we aren't exactly meant to be harsh on them for it. There are ideas of "karma" or universal fairness present in the script, that sometimes maybe it's okay to overstep your own moral boundaries in desperate circumstances, especially when you've been dealt an unfair hand. Plenty of positive and pro-family sentiments abound, in addition to the invocation for elderly empathy mentioned a few paragraphs up. Familial relationships, especially those of grandparents and grandchildren, are treated as beautiful and sacred. Even amidst their hijinks, the trio emphasizes the importance of generosity, fairness, and the value of life. And, perhaps most importantly, the movie shows us the value of true, selfless, encouraging friendship.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material
- Language/Profanity: Occasional mild swearing; "Jesus Christ" used as an exclamation, and one use of the F-word.
- Sexuality/Nudity: An older couple is seen in bed a few times, presumably post-sex. A man discusses having sex several times, and a woman flirts heavily with a man, her conversation including hints and innuendo.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Two different bank robberies are shown, complete with shouting and threats. A distressed man yells and fires gunshots at other men. A man is given a fatal diagnosis because of a failing kidney, and has a sudden episode later due to impending kidney failure.
Drugs/Alcohol: In one sequence, characters enter a store with dozens of varieties of marijuana for sale, they transport an enormous bag of the substance to another location, they share a blunt briefly, and in the following scene are humorously shown to be high. A few characters are shown drinking champagne in one scene and becoming tipsy. A man makes a joke about selling cocaine.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Families (of the grown variety, not families with children); those having money troubles who need a bit of humorous escapism; a relaxed, low-expectation date night; big fans of the leading trio of actors; empty-nesters.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Small children; mega fans of the original (expectations might be too high!).
Going in Style, directed by Zach Braff, opened in theaters April 7, 2017; available for home viewing August 1, 2017. It runs 96 minutes and stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Peter Serafinowicz, Joey King and Matt Dillon. Watch the trailer for Going in Style here.
Debbie Holloway is a storyteller, creator, critic and advocate having adventures in Brooklyn, New York.
Publication date: April 7, 2017