Going in Style: For a Tired-Brain Night




Directed by Zach Braff

Warner Brothers, 96 minutes, PG-13 (language, drug use)





We were riding out our Netflix subscription–Hint: Dust off your DVD player as you can request any disc you want through your local interlibrary loan system–because we were fed up with its paltry streaming of movies, TV shows, and documentaries we didn’t want to watch. Before we joined the 200,000 + who recently dumped Netflix we picked out a few movies we had vague interest in seeing, including Going in Style.  


It is loaded with elements I generally dislike; it oozes sentimentality, the comedy is as broad as the Mississippi during flood season, and it’s a remake of a pedestrian 1979 film that starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. You can add to this that it’s a pastiche of other genres such as buddy films, capers, and corporate revenge fantasies. For all of that, it has a goofy charm that places it in that ambiguous category of “not too bad.”


It works because its principals–Alan Arkin, ­Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman–are terrific together in ways that make you think they must have had a ball working on such a trifling project. They are so good that they elevate the movie to levels it has no right ascending. Willie (Freeman) moved in with Albert (Arkin) since his divorce many years earlier and Joe (Caine) is about to lose his home to oily banker Chuck Lofton (Josh Pais) who condescendingly explains why he misled Joe about his adjustable-rate mortgage. Our three senior citizens are former factory workers who gather regularly for breakfast and banter reminiscent of that from the 1982 Barry Levinson classic Diner. They’ve got a lot to discuss. Joe is at his bank making a withdrawal when it’s robbed and he sees the tattoo of one of the crooks. He shares that information with FBI agent Hamer (Matt Dillon), but the robbers make a clean getaway.


Then a different type of robbery occurs. The factory from which the three old friends retired has been sold to a foreign firm. It promptly takes over the company’s pension fund and cuts off the workers without a dime. Like that could happen. Oh, wait! When Joe learns that the bankruptcy protection plan has been structured by his own bank, he thinks someone should rob the bloody thing a second time. Why not the three of them? Well, for starters they are old. Secondly, they haven’t the foggiest idea of how to pull off a heist. Enter Joe’s ex-son-in-law Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz) who knows a guy, Jesús (John Ortiz), who will school them for a cut if they are successful and disavow ever knowing them if they are caught. Hey, why not? What’s a lot of jail time for geezers if they fail?


The lads assemble alibis–one of which involves a senile acquaintance played by Christopher Lloyd­–get their gear together, and seek to outwit Agent Hamer. You won’t need much more than an 8th grade education to follow any of the plot, nor a degree in philosophy to debate the film’s magical thinking ethics. You might need a handy barf bag for some of the subplots such as teaching Murphy to be a good father, Albert’s solid to Willie, or a burgeoning romance between Albert and man-hunting grocery clerk Annie (Ann-Margaret). In other words, Going in Style is a feel-good movie that bears as much resemblance to reality as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


The best way to enjoy Going in Style is to watch it on a tired-brain night and just go with it. You could ask questions such as why Murphy bears the same surname as Joe if he’s an ex-son-in-law but if you do, your brain isn’t tired enough. Just call it an escapist film, laugh when it’s funny, roll your eyes when it’s insipid, and put it back in the box when it’s over in an hour and a half. It made me smile, but it didn’t make me rethink canceling my Netflix subscription.


Rob Weir 

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