Going in Style is a Zach Braff joint which can mean only one thing, its stifling mediocrity. Possibly it’s just poorly timed, I mean Hell or High Water just got that best picture nom so the story of an amateur bank heist designed to retrieve funds immorally taken is already fresh in our minds. Where that film was tightly paced and laser focused, Going in Style is just about the opposite.
I’ll admit my ignorance of the original, but if it also is about the elderly losing their pensions as manufacturing departs America in a globalised economy I’d praise its foresight. Course, it’s about the elderly, Freeman, I believe, is the youngest, a sprightly 79; Alan Arkin at 83; Michael Caine, the head of the pack, at 84. These characters then, seemingly able, on their blue collar salaries, turned now into blue collar pensions, able to live in a quite nice New York district.
I know it ain’t right to criticise depictions of economic insecurity this a hard time for us all, but it noticeable how the flick sidesteps useful and important conversations in service of a surface level reading. Like Ann-Margret’s character, who in their seventies is still working minimum wage at supermarket, seemingly unable to retire; there an opportunity for discourse here, the way ‘women’s-work’ is devalued compared to men’s, the way they more likely to enter un-unionised positions when working for low wage, leading to lower economic security as they age, especially when single. Course that’s not even touched upon.
Nor really is the reason behind Caine’s character’s daughter moving back in with him. The younger employees of the steel mill, made unemployed by the business relocation. The estranged son in law, operator of an (illegal in New York State) weed dispensary, could this be a comment on how society’s unwillingness to modernise limits the growth of new employment sectors. I guess it could, but none of these thigs get a look in.
There’s more than time enough for them to. It’s weird, the movie’s written like a pretty standard three act structure, but that first act drags on and on and on. It’s gotta be at least halfway through the film before they agree to rob the bank and start their planning for the heist, and all that rush by mostly in montage. Then after they pull off the job, they evade the cops for a while. This passes even faster, laying out the plot developments totally mechanical. No grace or subtlety. Then it ends on a point so ill-defined and stupid that, well it seem like all the troubles disappear for convenience sake.
So what do they fill up all that spare time with? Old people jokes. Now it’s nothing too exploitative or too gross, which is fair, I guess if you’re working with these guys you gonna do your best no to piss them off. It’s just boring though, like old people can’t use tech, old people don’t understand youth things, old people have sex (lol.) We’ve seen all this stuff before and it sure not any funnier than it used to be.
They get some moments though, usually ones in which the material by the leads’ solid performances. A sequence where the folks try thieving their groceries from a mini-mart gives the three prime opportunity for some physical comedy until it traps them into an uninspired chase scene on a motorised buggy. It constantly doing this too, spoiling its interesting setups, like the dispensary, or the criminal underworld that they integrate into so easily (all latinx people, by the way), or the heist itself, which you’d think would be the comic centrepiece of the joint but comes off a flat, uninspired drag.
More about that racism thing, the one where white people are the socially acceptable criminals and the non-white ones are the bad kind. The guns and bank robbing kind. The, we don’t get to see the families or their lives dehumanised kind. Everyone else afforded their reasons for doing crime, but the minority characters, ‘Well you know, they just do it…’ Nope, nope and nope.
That ain’t the film’s only dirty slate though, Christopher Lloyd plays Milton, a character whose mental capacity appears to be deteriorating. He done this sorta stuff before, we seen him in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the character ain’t his fault. The film is just merciless towards him though. He is never in command of any of his scenes, the jokes always being played upon him. For a film which claims to be about the trials of age it really don’t have much compassion for this one. There’s also a pretty darn homophobic representation of a bad guy bank teller. Which, ew. The gay jokes may have flown in the early 2000s in Scrubs, not so much in a 2017 feature dude.
It’s quite concerning how hard this film wants its happy ending. It’s striving for it, it really is, I imagine the script was changed at some point during production, though it’s so belaboured I guess I can’t say when. It’s easy watching. There’s no surprises. Nothing so unexpected as to disrupt the flow of information into your brain. The film starts with a character firmly stating a strong socialist principle. To jump off from that into a film that puts so much emphasis on the characters’ right to personal monetary wealth is a bizarre juxtaposition.
Did we learn nothing from Rat Race? End your film at a Smash Mouth concert and give all the money away. That’s a fantasy though, we getting these films that say the only retribution to the violence of capital is to instead be the one enacting that violence on another (though, let’s be fair, enacting it upon a bank is probably the most socially acceptable version of this possible.) We need to start seeing films that disrupt this paradigm. In Hell of High Water the violence bit both ways, Going in Style completely detooths it.
We not at a time for gentle statements, next time anyone want to make a film about the perils of capitalism, make sure you’re saying something meaningful.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures