Going In Style

Brandon Richardson | 24/04/2017

By producing a modern spin on the 1979 film of the same name, Going in Style gives us a wonderful example of a film that is perfectly targeted for a particular audience segment, but will have anyone outside this audience counting down the minutes until the credits roll.

Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Al (Alan Arkin) play a group of seventy-something pals who are slowly but surely going about their retirement, keeping themselves occupied with bowls, reading the paper or having TV dinners while watching The Bachelor. Things start to go downhill for the group when Joe follows up a notice from the bank, threatening to take his house due to problems with his pension payments. While there, he is caught in the middle of a robbery. Unable to shake the experience from his mind, and with all of their financial problems, the trio decide to get proactive and stage a robbery of their own, with amusing consequences.

 

Going in Style has to be one of the most cliche films, as late. It may seem harsh to make that judgement on a remake, but it is easy to deduce the entire plot of this film from the poster alone, without needing to see the trailer or be previously aware of the existence of the film or the original. The film spends most of its first half exploring the relationship between three friends, and the banter between them, as their fiscal situation declines. The sheer speed with which their financial security evaporates is second in ridiculousness only to the caper itself. Of course, complications arise during the heist which, in any other world, would mean their attempt fails miserably, but they arbitrarily get away with their crime for obscene reasons so the audience can go away feeling content. In saying that, the film is a comedy, so it can have some leeway in how realistic its plot is, or at least it would if its comedic ploy was based on how ridiculous the scenario is. Rather, the brunt of the comedy is fish-out-of-water jokes, with our elderly compadres in situations that are unusual, to say the least. Director Zach Braff revels in exposing how the elderly might approach life differently, but this type of comedy drags, particularly for  those who don’t have a distinct taste for it. The only real break from this is the brief cameo from Kenan Thompson, who, in his brief appearances, seems intent on stealing the show with some of the best dialogue in this otherwise lacklustre picture.

 

Further to this, Going in Style falls into the same category of film as The Bucket List and Last Vegas in that, despite being comedy films, they curve towards drama when they touch on some of the common problems the elderly face, but often go unrecognised. In the case of the original Going in Style, the lead trio decided to stage a heist out of pure boredom. In the new version, the stakes are raised as the group attempts to steal back the pension they are rightfully owed in order to survive. The film also examines some more modern themes like continuing economic struggles after the GFC and the impact of offshoring on employment. In taking this more serious tact, Braff has traded some comedic potential for emotional impact. The is some benefit to this, as it bestows a certain dignity on its characters that films like Last Vegas failed to do, and gives the comedy a more relatable feel. However, the problem is that the themes discussed by Braff, and indeed this genre in general, have been done to death in the past decade. They’ve not only simply started to lose their effect; it’s well and truly gone. Taking a more light-hearted inspiration for the robbery, like the original does, would have allowed the film more comedic freedom, making the farcical seem more reasonable within the context of the film, which may have allowed for some more amusing situations or the possibility of a failed robbery. Alas, instead we are served a mismatched combination of comedy and drama that Braff, unfortunately, can’t coalesce into a solid film.

 

The most enjoyable aspect of Going in Style was the chemistry between the three leads. Freeman is no stranger to this genre, and has no trouble keeping the tone upbeat and comical even when his character’s situation is not. The same goes for Arkin, whose matter-of-fact outlook makes him the funnier of the three. Caine plays Joe as a lethargic, somewhat depressed, but nonetheless determined gentleman. Certainly, during the first half of the film, it’s hard to tell if this is how the character was written, or if Caine’s disdain for this type of film (given his highly decorated career) is just spilling over onto the screen.

Conclusion

This film will probably do well enough at the box office to keep the genre profitable for the time being. There is some entertainment here, but this is a film better suited to take your parents or grandparents to, rather than for a night out with your friends.