Sunday, June 23, 2024

Going in Style is Charming if Forgettable

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Going In Style is Zack Braff’s third film. You would never know it from watching it. Braff has, so far, been a visually distinctive director. With this latest movie, he’s toned down his auteur style of directing and opted for a more workmanlike style.

It’s an improvement. While Going In Style will likely not spawn a slew of indie knockoffs it is mercifully less insufferable than his first two movies. Don’t misunderstand me this is not a great film, not even a really good one, but it is fun and ultimately harmless.

Perhaps it was landing the cast of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin that inspired Braff to focus less on the idiosyncratic screen composition and focus more on letting three Hollywood legends just be charming.

If there is a saving grace to this film, it’s in their performances. You’ve seen these three in better roles in better movies, no doubt. But still, Freeman, Caine, and Arkin are of the caliber that even just playing variations of characters they’re known for is an enjoyable way to knock off an hour and a half.  

The movie is not overly complicated. Three old men rob a bank. Since it is 2017 the reasons for robbing the bank involve lost pensions due to big business, globalization, and the rage at big banks eluding punishment time and time again. At the very least the movie is aware of its time.

The problem is the rage seems so cliched. It’s not that I disagree with them. “These banks almost destroyed this country, and nothing ever happened to them.” One hundred percent agree. It still feels like the line is written more to justify the act of bank robbing than a belief any of the characters have.

The script by Theodore Melfi, writer and director of last years intensely entertaining Hidden Figures, indulges in mostly formulaic genre and Hollywood cliches. It never condescends though. A lesser movie would have the three leading codgers rant and rave about technology or television today. Instead we get charming little scenes with Willie (Freeman), Joe (Caine), and Al (Arkin) watching The Bachelorette the way it should be watched: a little tipsy, rowdy color commentary, and with rapt attention. Willie even uses Skype to talk with his granddaughter.

There is, however, an obligatory old men get high scene. It is mercifully short and underplayed but still unnecessary. Willie suffers from Chronic Hollywood Liver Disease. It’s a disease that is life threatening but curiously only ever makes itself known in appropriate dramatic moments.

Still cliches and formulas, while sometimes tiresome, are used for a reason. They work. Their like narrative shortcuts and broad moments that can draw on our empathy. There’s a right way and a wrong way to use them. I was never really bored watching Going In Style.

Give Braff credit, he has made a pleasurable, smooth-paced, amiable “old geezers pull off a heist and nobody gets hurt” movie. He allows the actors to play off each other and let everyone have a nice and easy time. If anyone gets short shrift, it’s Ann-Margret as Annie. She seems to solely exist to show us that Albert can still get it up. The price of a movie with no viagra jokes I suppose. Although sidelining one of the screens great talents to help prove the virility and masculinity of another seems like too steep of a price.

Going In Style is a hard movie to review. It’s not something I’m going to tell you to run out and spend your hard-earned money on. Still, it’s not a movie that inspires any kind of real hate. It’s funny in parts. There’s really nothing you don’t see coming; although it did pull one reveal off that I didn’t see, so there’s that. It’s a movie you watch will a small smile on your face, and when it’s over, you change the channel. With all that’s going on in the world though, sometimes 90 minutes of smiling is enough.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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