Going in Style Review

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While filmgoers lament the lack of roles provided for those of a certain age, it seems somewhat contradictory to then be so critical of Going in Style, featuring the remarkable talent of silver screen legends Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin. Yet a lead role does sadly not equate to an interesting one – and while it’s patently clear that all three of the above enjoyed themselves when shooting this picture, regretfully, they’re likely to be the only ones.

Approaching the age where they all hang up their boots for good, lifelong friends Willie (Freeman), Joe (Caine) and Albert (Arkin) are pushed into an early retirement, when made redundant from their company, and then informed they won’t be receiving the pensions they had initially been promised. So Joe has an idea, having been a nervous bystander in a recent bank robbery, he decides the trio should follow suit, and make enough money to spend the rest of their days carefree, hoping that their old age will be more than enough to throw the police off the scent. However what they hadn’t accounted for, was the physical exertion required to pull off such an endeavour, as they ready themselves for a monumental heist.

Though the exploration of the elderly’s status in modern society is an intriguing one, the more profound elements within this narrative are cheapened by director Zach Braff’s irreverent tone. Often an accessible comedy can work as something of a vehicle to study bigger socio-political themes, and have messages entwined within the playful approach – but in this instance it’s a balance that simply hasn’t been achieved. That said there is a warmth to this piece, a gentle sense that makes for harmless cinema – though the protagonists themselves are not quite as harmless as the film preaches. The fact this mission is a victimless one is what allows for their conscience to remain in tact, for the viewer to remain on their side. Hmmm, the frightened looks of the staff and the public at the bank when the robbery is ongoing would suggest it’s not quite so victimless after all.

The soundtrack is excellent though, and with performers of this calibre at the very least you’re provided with accomplished displays. However for Braff it’s another mediocre turn in the director’s chair. Both Garden State and Wish I Was Here were accused of being too contrived in their whimsicality, and some had hoped he’d be more natural and embrace conventionality. So that’s exactly what he’s done, except now gone too far in the opposite direction, for while his preceding pictures strived tirelessly to not be generic, this can be described as very little else.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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