Going in Style
For a seemingly innocent early April release, Going in Style offers a fountain of revelations.
Among its welcome discoveries is that Zach Braff can direct veteran movie stars in a broad comedy without sacrificing his style. Arguably more worthy of a hallelujah chorus, however, is that Alan Arkin (Stand Up Guys) and Morgan Freeman (Last Vegas) can make quality retiree films after all and – though the last few years put this in doubt – haven’t lost the ability to choose good projects in general.
(Over that same period, their co-star Michael Caine has made his share of duds, but he’s also been part of things like Youth, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Interstellar, so the occasional misstep may be more easily forgiven.)
Written by Hidden Figures director Theodore Melfi, working from the same Edward Cannon story that Martin Brest filmed in 1979 with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, Going in Style is a timely, thoroughly pleasant little comedy that rests its hopes in the legendary trio’s potential for winning rapport – a trust that the Oscar winners reward with a healthy amount of laughs.
Concerned about paying his basic bills, Joe (Caine) goes to his New York bank to inquire about his skyrocketing mortgage rate and witnesses its robbery. The ease with which the heist is pulled off plants the seed that he and his best friends Willie (Freeman) and Al (Arkin) could do it themselves if they continue to have trouble getting by.
Also prodding the late septuagenarians is a collective fear of turning into their buddy Milton (Christopher Lloyd, nice to see doing something other than randomly popping up as Doc Brown), whose dementia is good for a decent number of chuckles, some of them comfortable ones.
The last straws come in the form of Joe’s red-letter eviction notice and learning that the blue-collar friends’ former employer and Joe’s bank have colluded to deny them and other workers their pensions.
To see if they have what it takes to break bad, the three engage in a hilarious test run at an unexpected establishment, quite possibly the film’s best sequence and one that inspires a magnificent dressing down by Kenan Thompson as the business’ manager when they’re unsurprisingly caught.
The stretch is one of many in Going in Style that Braff directs cleanly while maintaining a good amount of his trademark stylistic personality. Other standout touches include three-panel split screens or the traditional De Palma-esque two where angles are frequently changed and the tiles slide across the field of vision – plus we get another fine soundtrack from the man who redefined the medium with 2004’s Garden State.
The staging of the friends setting up their alibi as well as the caper itself are likewise well-crafted and go far in smoothing out the occasional groaners and the fact that these aren’t exactly deep characters.
In the end, all they want is to maintain their modest lifestyles and be with the people they love – AARP catnip at its finest, but a come-on that’s remarkable for issuing from someone with a few decades to go before collecting social security.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG-13. Playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Warner Bros.)