Going in Style Reminds Us That Actors Get Old

going in style

We’re currently in the usual early April rut for movies. Summer blockbuster season is just around the corner, and studios don’t want to see their larger offerings cut down in their second or third week by the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Yet behind the heavily desaturated Power Rangers and the highly controversial Ghost in the Shell, there seemed to be one Michael Caine-led gem worth a gander.

I’m not going to tell you that Going in Style is the must-see comedy of the year. I won’t even tell you that you need to catch it theaters; a streaming service or $5 DVD bargain bin purchase should suffice. I will tell you, however, that I laughed more than my fair share of chuckles, chortles, and booming, belly-born blasts. It’s a heist comedy starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin with a doddering Christopher Lloyd stumbling about in the background – what’s not to enjoy?

going in style movie

But more importantly, I’ll encourage you not to take geriatric-laden flicks like this for granted. There’s a moment in Going in Style where the three would-be robbers calculate just how much the heartless, money-grubbing bank owes them in stolen pension money. At $45,000 per year each, they simply need to estimate how many years each of them has left. When Morgan Freeman’s character Willie remarked that he only expected to live another two to three years, I half-heard it as Morgan Freeman’s commentary on his own mortality.

A similar poignancy runs through the very age-aware film as each character frequently shakes his fist at a society that has long since swept them to the dustbin of history or acknowledges the inevitability of his own death and the fleeting lives of those around him. I half-expected Christopher Lloyd to drop off at any moment, either has a simple gag or an impetus for characters that really want, as the title implies, to go out in style.

going in style morgan freeman

Forgive my bleakness, but death hangs over this whole movie. In spite of it (or perhaps because of it), the whole cast seems to be having a blast. You can almost hear the off-camera laughs these three must have had after Alan Arkin begrudgingly takes care of stoned Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in a mid-munchies eating frenzy. I could see any of them being content having their IMDB pages abruptly end with Going in Style.

There are certainly are worse ways to go, no? Not the dying part, but the Joan-Crawford’s-final-film-being-Trog part.

joan crawford trog

It begs the question: What would an actor or actress choose as his or her final film, given the choice? Raul Julia reportedly took on the role of M. Bison in Street Fighter while knowingly dying of cancer purely for his children. While Sean Connery still lives, his supposed acting retirement would leave a rather unfortunate-looking children’s film Guardian of the Highlands as his final IMDB entry.

But many don’t get the choice. Some are as innocuous as Audrey Hepburn’s final appearance in the flying firefighter flick Always or as grandiose as Carrie Fisher passing away to Star Wars Episodes 8 and 9 (what are likely to be two of the highest-grossing movies of all time). Heaven forbid you get the Orson Welles treatment and end a legendary career as a dramatic actor on Transformers: The Movie.

Of course, you have the untimely demises of youthful actors such as Heath Ledger or Chris Farley, but you can never really see those coming, can you? There isn’t time to take that actor’s life of performances for granted or anticipate the occasional forgettable appearance in Now You See Me 2.

going in style cast

I’ve loved Michael Caine since his stint as a comical Sherlock Holmes in Without a Clue, and I don’t know if there’s another actor I’d rather meet more on the planet. I couldn’t tell you in which film I first saw Morgan Freeman, but I’ve cherished his ubiquity in American cinema my entire life. Alan Arkin is, I admit, less endeared to me, but then again the man is still killing it with performances in films like Argo.

But time is no starstruck ticket-taker letting the great ones through admission scott-free. Losing Christopher Lee alone two years ago should have taught us that much.

going in style film

So I humbly ask that the next a trailer or TV spot for Going in Style or some other skippable-looking movie prominently featuring an elderly actor comes on, don’t let your eyes glaze over. Don’t take what may be a final performance for granted.  Take a moment, maybe buy a ticket on a whim, and reminisce on how a devilish smile, a teary eye, or a captivating voice can charm your very soul with mere words on a page and light captured in film.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan argue about the correct way to replicate Michael Caine’s lustrous cockney accent.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x