Going in Style

I watched a comedy movie recently in an aircraft on a trans-Atlantic flight when the lights went out and I could not continue reading my book. The movie was called Going in Style.The movie establishes 3 old codgers (can codgers ever be young?) Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin) who retired after working for a company for 40 years only to find that the company has outsourced its work out of the country, merged with another company, and dissolved their pension. Instead of paying their loyal employees they are using the pension money to pay utility bills. All of this financial chicanery was financed by their very own bank. Sounds pretty dastardly and I wonder if that can be done so effortlessly in the US. I sure hope not.

The 3 codgers are naturally upset at how they have been robbed by corporate America. That sounds reasonable enough. But their solution is radical, if not revolutionary. They decide to the rob the bank to get their money back, vowing not to steal any more than needed and if they accidentally take too much will give the excess to charity.

Joe, the leader of this geriatric rat pack, has in fact suffered a double whammy of corporate shenanigans. As if losing his pension was not bad enough a smarmy banker persuaded him to take out an adjustable mortgage that had a very large uptake of interest that he had been assured was extremely unlikely. Now he was unable to pay and the bank was taking legal action to evict him out of his home. All of this rings fairly true and clearly ought not to countenanced by any political system in which electors were not scandalously tied to corporate fraudsters, but this movie does not go too deeply into the revolutionary possibility of working class reactions. After all the movie is a comedy not a left wing tract.

Much of this sounds a bit like Woody Guthrie’s classic Pretty Boy Floyd. Here are some of the lyrics about that bank robber who was a bit like Robin Hood:


But a many a starving farmer

The same old story told

How the outlaw paid their mortgage

And saved their little homes.


Others tell you ’bout a stranger

That come to beg a meal,

Underneath his napkin

Left a thousand dollar bill.


It was in Oklahoma City,

It was on a Christmas Day,

There was a whole car load of groceries

Come with a note to say:


Well, you say that I’m an outlaw,

You say that I’m a thief.

Here’s a Christmas dinner

For the families on relief.


Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered

I’ve seen lots of funny men;

Some will rob you with a six-gun,

And some with a fountain pen.


And as through your life you travel,

Yes, as through your life you roam,

You won’t never see an outlaw

Drive a family from their home.


There is another political element to the film. Joe got his inspiration for the bank robbery from an actual robbery of his bank where he was an innocent spectator. One of the robbers refuses to steal from Joe. Instead, he says, “It is the duty of every culture to help its elders.” That too rings true, but is, as we all know, radically ignored in modern capitalistic society. We do a very poor job of fulfilling our “duty.”

I won’t say Going in Style is the best movie. It is not even a great movie. It is however mildly entertaining and the 3 leading men and Anne Margaret as the spicy love interest for one of the codgers all bring years of experience and professional skills to their task. If, like me, you find yourself in a dark aircraft, unable to read a book, it is worth the view.