Going in Style Parent Review
Stylish acting is used to dress up this glamorized tale of crime.
What is it with movies and bank robbers? For decades films have presented these thieves as Robin Hood style heroes. In Going in Style, even more motivation to cheer on the crooks is provided when we are introduced to the aging Joe, Willie and Albert… played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.
The trio have put in many years at a steel company and while trying to enjoy their modest retirement, their former employer is bought out by an offshore entity. As part of the collateral damage, their pension funds are liquidated to pay off the corporation’s debts. Suddenly even a piece of pie at their favorite diner is an impossible luxury.
After Joe, the leader of the gang, visits with a somewhat unethical bank employee (Josh Pais) to try and resolve why his mortgage payments have skyrocketed, the discussion is interrupted by an armed hold-up. The stressful event gives Joe an idea. And it doesn’t take much time to convince his two buddies to help him plan their own heist. Willie’s body is in dire need of a new kidney and Albert discovers the reallocation of their retirement money is being handled by their own bank. Fully motivated and feeling like they have little to lose, they create elaborate alibies, find an unlikely getaway vehicle and procure a classic Rat Pack disguise.
If the setup sounds familiar, you may have seen the original Going In Style from 1979. This new rendition seems to move a little faster and focus more on the humor. It also goes to greater lengths to engender our empathy for these old guys. All are necessary ingredients if the script wants audiences to condone what is otherwise a very serious crime.
Both depicted robberies involve gunplay—although our elderly gentlemen, after training on a firing range for days, opt for blanks in their pistols. Yet, for the depicted employees and patrons caught in the crosshairs, it really isn’t a laughing matter. And, like most geriatric comedies, there are several jokes fired involving the effects of aging on sexual abilities and other bodily functions. Albert, perhaps the nimblest of the three, is seen romancing a woman in her bedroom on a couple of occasions. As well, the dialogue is riddled with profanities, and a sexual expletive is used once. Perhaps more unexpected is the inclusion of these gents stumbling into the marijuana business and getting high after smoking pot.
The best takeaway from this experience is watching these screen veterans work their craft. When Caine’s character takes on a corporate executive who has just flushed his pension, we see a wash of emotions on his face. Similar depth solidifies Freeman and Arkin’s characters dealing with health and ethical concerns. Because it is aimed at an older audience, few kids are likely to wander into this movie – and that may be fortuitous given the film’s stereotypical softening of the illegal behavior and the way it promotes thievery as a thing of style.Directed by Zach Braff. Starring Joey King, Ann-Margret, Michael Caine. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release April 7, 2017. Updated April 10, 2017
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Going in Style here.
Going in Style Parents Guide
How does this movie justify criminal behavior? What injustices have the main characters endured? What things does the plot include to show their suffering? Who are the “bad guys” in the story? Are we less sympathetic about them because they are institutions and corporations rather than people? Who are the “faces” of the bank and the company? How are they portrayed?
What legal options could Joe, Willie and Albert have tried to improve their circumstances? Why do you think none of these are ever considered in the script?
Encourage your kids to substitute different genders, ethnicities or ages into a film. For example, if a similar premise substituted three male youths, who had lost jobs and had family members needing health care, would it still be funny? Are we more prone to forgive and, perhaps, even find it humorous when elderly people commit crimes?
How are older people treated in the film? Does this behavior reflect reality? Why are some societies more respectful of their elderly than others? How do you respond to those who are your seniors? Despite feeling disgruntled by the condescending attitudes of others, how do Joe, Willie and Albert treat their peer Milton (played by Christopher Lloyd)?
The three men in this movie claim they want to “retire with dignity.” How would you define “dignity”? Would you focus on character traits (such as honest, hard-working, caring parent) or on social status (like owning your home and having money for needs and simple pleasures)? How does their choice to pursue financial security put their personal ethics in jeopardy?