Film Fangirl: ‘Going in Style’ boasts legendary cast but lacks substance

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The film industry tends to focus on young, beautiful people, so it’s always nice to see Hollywood remember the older generation, as it does with this year’s remake of the 1979 film “Going in Style.”

Unfortunately, the remake of “Going in Style” takes an opposite, safe direction in contrast to what made the original 1979 film an honest if sometimes bitter look at growing old in America.

“Going in Style” stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as Joe, Willie and Albert, retired factory workers and lifelong friends whose pensions have been permanently dissolved. The money is now being used for the factory’s business debts while the company plans to move overseas. Each has mounting bills and no way to pay, eventually leading the three to risk everything by robbing the same bank that has their pension money.

The best thing about “Going in Style” is easily the cast. It goes without saying Caine, Freeman and Arkin are all acting legends; plenty of us have grown up seeing them individually in everything from “The Italian Job” (1969) to “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) to Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy. The easy-going chemistry they have here is such a treat to watch. Their performances give the feeling that these three really have been friends all their lives.

Ann-Margret, another legend who starred in such films as “Bye Bye Birdie” (1963), “Viva Las Vegas” (1964) and the “Grumpy Old Men” films (1993, 1995), costars as Annie, Albert’s love interest, which is also entertaining to see.

But sadly, outside of its cast, “Going in Style” is not a memorable film. We have older people robbing a bank, which sounds like a hilarious venture, but “Going in Style” balks at nearly every turn where it could bring true catharsis and sacrifice to its story. Where the original film didn’t shy away from the reality of getting old or the pain, heartache and eventually death that comes with it, this remake seems afraid to take that step.

The film has some hilarious moments; the sequence of the men trying to rob a grocery store as a warmup heist is especially comical. But the lightheartedness of the film’s overall approach sometimes falls flat, with some of the jokes feeling forced and some of the plot lines feeling unnatural and out of place.

While I understand that I don’t fall into the film’s target audience, I still feel “Going in Style” could have had so much more to say.

The film tries to address how older generations feel about current events, like companies packing up and moving overseas and banks receiving bailouts. One of the best moments is when, upon hearing that the factory is moving to Vietnam and pensions have been dissolved, Joe tearfully tells the factory’s public relations person, “Thirty years of hard work doesn’t mean shit to you people.” The audience I saw this film with was made up mostly of elderly viewers, and I could see many of them nodding at Joe’s speech. I just wish we could have had more of moments like these, with true consequences and emotion, rather than just silliness.

Overall, “Going in Style” is a cute, harmless film with an excellent cast. I just wish it had been more.

Grade: C