Movie review: Lighter side of economic woe in ‘Going in Style’
Last summer, “Hell or High Water” painted a bleak picture of banks and finances in America. It was a sort of Bonnie and Clyde-style thrill ride about a pair of brothers who, faced with foreclosure on their mother’s ranch after a predatory loan, decided to make the bank pay. They did it by robbing a few banks and using the chain’s own money to pay their debts.
It was a film that resonated with a lot of people, especially in the current climate. The film was even nominated for Best Picture. And you couldn’t help but wonder if it was the beginning of something.
“Going in Style” has practically nothing in common with “Hell or High Water.” It’s set in a big city, it centers on a trio of retired friends and it’s a comedy. But it is also about a failed economic system that leaves average people feeling victimized, on the verge of losing their home, and desperate to find a solution.
The film focuses on friends Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin). They spent their careers working for a steel mill and now are trying to enjoy their golden years, but it’s a struggle. Social Security won’t meet their needs, so they’re dependent on their pension funds. But those funds haven’t paid out in months, leaving all three cash strapped.
Joe cares for his daughter and granddaughter (Joey King), and is on the verge of losing his house. Willie and Albert, roommates who live across the street, face similar financial woes. And when their old company sells to a new buyer who liquidates the pension fund, it leaves them desperate.
Joe is at the bank, trying to weigh his options, when it’s robbed by a trio of armed men. Weeks later, the police – specifically FBI agent Hamer (Matt Dillon) – have no leads. But for Joe, the incident is inspiration. After some finagling, he convinces Willie and Albert that their only chance is to rob the bank and get their pension money back.
This is a different kind of film. It’s a family comedy and a buddy comedy, but it also feels relevant to our times. While it treats the subject in a comical way, this movie is making a statement about the banking system, corporations and our economy. And, much like with “Hell or High Water,” I can’t help but wonder if this is part of a growing trend.
It’s also just a fun movie to watch. Caine, Arkin and Freeman are incredibly talented actors, and they work well together here. They have fun with the conceit of the film, their age and the story. And it works in a delightful way.
And each of them does something a little different. Freeman, as always, brings plenty of pathos and has one of the more emotional arcs in the film. Caine has a wonderful rapport with King, and also has some great scenes with Peter Serafinowicz, who plays his ner-do-well son-in-law. And Arkin has some fun scenes with Ann Margaret, who plays his love interest.
It’s clear the trio had fun making the movie, and that translates to the screen. Director Zach Braff – best known for his work in front of the camera as the star in “Scrubs” – does a nice job with the film and the pacing. The story plays out in some ways you don’t expect and brings plenty of laughs to go along with some more emotional moments.
This is a solidly made comedy that is great for a wide audience.
“Going in Style” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for drug content, language and some suggestive material.
Three stars out of four.