Bank Heist Elders … 38 Years Later

September 6, 2019

Allow me to start this review on a personal note. In reviewing films for this journal, I have tried to find those films that present aspects of elderhood in an insightful or credible way, and that are often not well known. Such films, I’m finding, are harder and harder to come by. So, for this review, I decided to dip into the pool of more mainstream films that may simply be fun to watch without having much to meaningfully “say” about elderhood. The recent film, Going in Style, that portrays three older friends who carry out a bank heist, seemed like it could be such a film. After watching it, however, I was left with so little of value to “say” that I was ready to move on and find something else to review.

But before I did that, I decided to watch the original film by the same name from 1979 that the newer Going in Style is based on. I’m glad I did. Where the new film is stale and trite, the original film is engaging and deeply respectful of elders. Where the new film is a disappointing hash of feel-good schmaltz, one-liner humor, stereotypical old guy adventure, and happy endings, the 1979 film deftly balances a subtler humor with a broader perspective on elderhood.

The basic plot for both films is the same. Three old friends robbing a bank provides an instant dramatic structure: will they actually pull it off, and if they do, will they later get found out and apprehended? It’s a simple plot, but how it plays out is very different in each film. In the original (1979) film, the motivation for the robbery is a combination of extreme boredom and the attraction of “having a little extra cash.” The film opens with the three friends sitting on a park bench watching the swirl of activities going on around them. As older retired men they appear to have lost the spark of meaningful living. Later one of them says, “If I have to spend another day doing nothing but sitting around at that park looking at them ugly kids I’m gonna go nuts.”

Read full review in The Gerontologist