Movie Review: Going in Style

Older stars get a chance to strut their stuff in an ensemble caper film

Going in Style
Directed by Zach Braff
With by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Joey King, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd, Ann-Margret

The one thing even less popular than banks right now are companies that shut down their factories to send jobs overseas. And everyone likes Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, and tolerates Alan Arkin if he doesn't ham it up too much. The three acting veterans star in Going in Style, an updated remake of a 1979 caper film. The stars have help from Christopher Lloyd and Ann-Margret, the latter having her best role in well over a decade.

The basic premise is that a formerly big company is moving operations to Vietnam, and has liquidated its pension fund. This leaves Joe Harding (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) high and dry. Joe will lose his house if he doesn't make payments. His payment rate just tripled, as he had a variable-rate loan. Willie and Albert are not much better off.

Joe, in the opening scene, is at the local bank to ask about his mortgage rate increase when it gets robbed by three very professional masked men. The coming plot turns are a no brainer. Joe feels that he and his friends can do the same. If the are not caught, then they get the money; if they are caught, they get housing, food and health care in prison. It is a win-win.

The three leads take a while to catch up to the audience, but that is OK. They have some decent character development, taking time to create some likable older characters. They spend much of their time in a diner, and the cost of living mentioned a bit too often, but that is not unrealistic.

There is a subplot with a store clerk named Annie (Ann-Margret) pursuing Albert, a former jazz musician and life-long loner.

There are not many good roles for older women. Annie is shown as someone who hasn't given up on life and still wants to enjoy it. Often, these roles are parodies ridiculing the elderly. Ann-Margret plays the role in earnest, being a bit pushy with Albert but just because she wants something that could be good for both of them. Ann-Margret, for those who don't remember, was a star in the 1960s and '70s in films like Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas, Carnal Knowledge and Tommy. She has aged well.

Joe and his friends are not career criminals, so they seek some help, which puts another set of subplots in effect including one involving Joe's granddaughter, Brooklyn (Joey King), whose father has skipped out on her and her mom. The family melodrama is not overdone, which would have spoiled to rather light tone of the film.

The rapport among the main leads is excellent, and it pulls the film a bit above its rather routine bank robbery plot.

One drawback is Christopher Lloyd as Milton, another old person living in the neighborhood. He is suffering from memory loss, and that just isn't funny. He hints at the absent-minded genius he played in the Back to the Future series, but without the genius part it seems like cruel humor. His part is also small, which is disappointing as he can be quite good when he has the chance.

The film is amusing but never hits high peaks of laughter. Instead it amiably cruises along at a moderate pace, running into a few crises near the end, and then settling back for its conclusion. Fans of the older generation of stars will likely enjoy its laid back pace and humor more than others.

If nothing else, it is a safe film to take your older relatives to if you haven't done anything nice for them recently.

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