Going in Style

Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - Exclusive to Fortune

Although the movie "Going in Style" will not garner awards for outstanding performances it is a decent film. The plot of the movie could be described as About Schmidt meets Ocean’s Eleven meets The Grapes of Wrath. A group of old colleagues that have been working together for many years learn that their company is being taken over and they might lose everything. What they decide to do next is comical and naive, but desperate times calls for desperate measures. 4 out of 10 stars.

It is a slow week at multiplexes. The pre-summer season may ooze some big budget movies, like Beauty and the Beast and The Fate of the Furious, that are looking to capitalize on the scarcity of box office competition, but a large section of the film gobbling community is left in the dark. While mainstream audiences wait for the summer season, more open-minded viewers await movies that are usually released in the awards season. In the meantime, we make do with Boss Baby, Ghost in the Shell and Going in Style.

The latter is one of Hollywood’s high-concept movies, whose main plot could be described in just one sentence. Going in Style – a scriptwriter would preach to a studio head – is About Schmidt meets Ocean’s Eleven meets The Grapes of Wrath.

Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are lifelong friends who live very close to each other and have worked with the same company for decades. But the bank soon informs the trio, and a whole lot of other pensioners, that since the enterprise they work for has financial problems, it has been bought out, and their pensions scraped. For Willie and Joe, this cannot come at a worse time, since the former requires a kidney transplant, and the latter is about to become homeless.

Like every person that has ever been hungry and poor, they become desperate, so much so they decide to rob the same bank that is cancelling their pensions. But doing so is easier said than done, as they find out when they try to shoplift from the local supermarket. So, they enlist the help of another local, a Mexican lowlife, to help them map out how to rob a bank and then cover it up.

Going in Style – which could have more accurately been titled Going Out in Style – is a happy little movie with a naïve outlook on reality. The protagonists are supposed to be modern Robin Hoods, taking from the rich, the banks and the board members, to give to themselves and other close friends. Early on in the movie, Joe explains that they should only take what their pensions worth; if they rob more than that, the money should go to charity. All of this is a trick to make us like the film’s superficial and one-dimensional characters – how moral and conscientious they are – and overlook the overly dry dialogue.

The script is written by Theodore Melfi who made the Bill Murray starring comedy drama St. Vincent, and the effective Hidden Figures. The movie might have turned out better if he had directed it himself, instead of the less talented and inexperienced Zach Braff. There are signs that there may be scenes that never made it into the final cut, probably cut by the studio, or Braff himself, for commercial reasons.

This is not to say that Going in Style is unworthy as to inhibit us from watching such acting giants at play. None of their performances in this film will get applaud, but it helps the general public take note, shows us that they are still out there.

Morgan Freeman merely needs an introduction. There is not a cooler, suaver seventy-year-old entertainer anywhere in the world. The character that first brought him to international attention was a stereotypical black chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy. From there on, it has been nothing but smooth sailing in many memorable roles in highly regarded masterpieces as The Shawshank Redemption (where his groovy narrating skills were discovered) and Seven and Unforgiven. Lately, though, we see him more and more in commercial movies than personal ones.

Michael Caine is a frequent collaborator of Freeman’s, but he is a distinctive actor that has stood his ground. In the 60’s and 70’s, Caine, whose real name is Maurice Micklewhite, was as big, if not bigger, an actor as today’s Jude Law. His most popular character is Alfie, in the movie of the same name, which was remade with Law in the starring role. His best performances can be found in Get Carter and Sleuth (opposite Laurence Olivier). These days, Caine is a staple in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster movies.

Alan Arkin is the least popular of the three, but he may be the most talented. He has a Best Supporting Oscar under his belt, for Little Miss Sunshine, but it is not the movie that captures his wild-eyed sensibilities. His depiction of an unhinged, sadistic villain in Wait Until Dark is the greatest ever given by any actor. He also directs, his most acclaimed movie Little Murders.

The geriatric cast is rounded off by Christopher Lloyd, who plays a minor character. Who would have thought his facial expressions – even after the Back to the Future franchise and Who Framed Roger Rabbit – could get more ridiculous?

By Christian Tesfaye

Published on Apr 29,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 887]



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