In 1979 the film Going in Style, starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, was released. I was still in my Sesame Street phase back then, and never saw it. Fast forward thirty-eight years to the remake, old for some, but new for me.
The 2017 reboot of Going in Style stars three of Hollywood’s elite: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin. When the original film was made, Burns was 78, Carney was 71, and Strasberg was 74. Comparing the original film’s trailer with the current movie, I have to say that the newest generation of actors in this film seem so much younger than their original counterparts even though they’re actually older. Freeman is 79, Caine is 84, and Arkin is 83.
The trio of Academy Award winners are retirees, spending what’s supposed to be their golden years, hanging out with one another on a daily basis. Caine plays Joe, a protective grandfather who’s struggling to make ends meet. Freeman’s character Willie wishes he lived closer to his daughter and granddaughter, and regrets that he doesn’t have the funds required to visit them more often. Arkin stars as the cantankerous Albert, practical and blunt, irritated by the daily price tag associated with survival.
When the company from which all three characters retired announces drastic changes to their pension plans, they find themselves in a quandary as they worry how they’re going to afford even the most basic necessities of life. Realizing that they’re all being grossly mistreated after dedicating themselves to their jobs for so many years, they decide to follow a rather outrageous plan crafted by Joe. What better way to get their money back than to rob the bank that’s helping their former employer pay its debts by pilfering funds from their pension accounts?
Even though the film is considered a crime story, its true message is one of friendship. Joe, Willie, and Albert are loyal to one another, and treasure each other’s companionship. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking that someday, when I’m in my 80s, I hope I’m lucky enough to still have my friends by my side, people who truly understand me and appreciate me for who I am, faults included.
The movie encompasses several scenes that made me giggle, especially those in which the unlikely bank robbers mentally and physically prepare for their big heist. Can three elderly men with a plethora of medical ailments possibly pull off a robbery? They figure they have nothing to lose because, even if they fail, prison will offer all the amenities they could possibly need or want, including a warm bed and three meals a day.
While there are humorous moments for sure, there are also tender moments where you see how aging can make people feel vulnerable in terms of health issues as well as financial security. Retirement, often imagined as being glorious, can in fact be scary with all the uncertainty it brings with it.
The scenes in which Joe and Willie interact with their granddaughters made me think of my own father, who’s now in his early 70s. Pop-Pop, as my daughter calls him, reminds me of Joe and Willie, who love their granddaughters more than anything, and, in return, are adored by them.
My friend Kelly, who attended the film with me, said, “I’m glad I saw this. I laughed a lot, and was rooting for their success. I almost cried too.”
Going in Style is entertaining for sure, but also serves as a gentle reminder that older people are still very much a part of this game we call life. The distinction between the “good guys” versus the “bad guys” can sometimes be blurred, and there are moments when differentiating wrong from right feels impossible. The film highlights that age is just a number, and that “you’re never too old to get even.” I walked away from the theater with a smile as I thought about how the movie emphasized that getting older doesn’t mean you should have to settle for good enough. Wanting more out of life is what keeps you young, and having someone to share it all with is truly worth its weight in gold.
Movie times: click here
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Director: Zach Braff
Actors: Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margaret, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin
Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes