Going in Style (1979) / Comedy-Drama

MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and mild violence
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg, Charles Hallahan, Pamela Payton-Wright, Siobhan Keegan, Brian Neville
Director: Martin Brest
Screenplay: Martin Brest
Review published March 16, 2005

In a society where the elderly are considered to have had all of their fun, as well as their usefulness, behind them, Going in Style offers a different slant.  Here we have three men, in their final years, eschewing their role as those cute old guys who sit on the bench all day and feed pigeons. 

The elderly men in question are Joe (Burns, Oh God!), Al (Carney. Harry and Tonto), and Willie (Strasburg, The Godfather Part II), who are tired of doing nothing all day, with little to show for their lives except to cash their Social Security checks now and then.  On their latest cashing, a though occurs to Joe that would change their lives forever.  Sick of their daily existence, they might as well have a chance to live it up a little before they pass on, and to do that, the trio gets together in a scheme to steal what they can from a local bank.  Nothing major, just enough to live in the lap of luxury a while.  The worst that can happen is they go to jail, which is almost preferable to the prison that is their daily existence.

Going in Style marks the breakthrough of writer-director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run) as a major talent in filmmaking, creating an original and very entertaining story driven almost solely on pinpoint characterizations and a wealth of charm.  Strong lead performances help immensely, with Burns in particular giving what would be one of his finest performances in over sixty years in the entertainment industry.  

Lots of nice touches abound, some of them funny, some of them heartbreaking, but always done with great care for the characters.  Although on the surface, this is a slight and whimsical movie, some choice food for thought goes on underneath, specifically about the usefulness of keeping old people idly on the fringes to watch the rest of us enjoy our lives.  Brest's film strongly asserts that our elderly should not be forgotten, and like Eastern societies, perhaps they should be loved and respected for all they've contributed.

After watching Going in Style, I was a bit surprised to find that the film had garnered very little critical acclaim, shut out from the Oscars and Golden Globes, despite some very worthy performances and writing.  Like the neglected elderly themselves, the film sits almost unrented on the video shelves, long forgotten by audiences seeking newer, fresher, more titillating entertainment.  However, for those willing to see beyond the cover appearances, Going in Style is an oldie but definitely a goodie.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo