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'The Simple Heist' Is Funny – as Long as You Don't Mind Its Overly Simple Approach
November 5, 2018  | By David Hinckley

The Simple Heist asks a simple question: Why should robbing banks only be for the young?

In pursuit of the answer to that question, the Swedish comic drama tracks two women in their 60s as they knock one over.  

Along the way, The Simple Heist, which premieres Monday on the streaming service Acorn, sometimes flirts with the absurd. It also draws us into the lives of two women we come to like even when there are times we want to step into the television and say, “Stop. Just stop.”

Cecilia Stensson (Sissela Kyle, top) is a gastroenterologist, by all appearances successful in a well-respected profession. Her husband Jan recently retired and now spends a good deal of time cooking and cleaning. They have grandchildren.

Cecilia also has a secret. While running the family finances, she has run them into the ground. The crash of the Chinese market has left the Stenssons in dire straits. They aren’t homeless, exactly. They just aren’t positioned to buy the second home Jan has long coveted and on which he is about to place a bid since he doesn’t know Cecilia’s secret.

Jenny Bengtsson (Lotta Teijle, top), Cecilia’s BFF, has a parallel problem stemming from rather different circumstances.

She’s a career schoolteacher who is about to be divorced by her husband Gunnar because she slept with a chemistry teacher. Compounding the problem, she signed a prenuptial agreement 30-odd years ago that apparently renounced all claims to their shared property.

And because for much of their lives she stayed home to raise their three children while he worked, almost all that property is in his name or bought with “his” money.

So Jenny is about to be tossed into the street with barely the resources to rent a flat. Furthering the frustration and humiliation, their teenage daughter Harriet wants to live with Dad, because he’s got the big house and he buys her things like a new moped while Jenny must get around on a bicycle.

Riding a bicycle around the icy streets of Sweden in the winter suggests all by itself that Jenny has survival skills.

Nonetheless, she also needs money. She can’t get a bank loan because the bank loan officer, to whom she taught mathematics some years earlier, has calculated that she will be retiring soon and thus is a poor payback risk.

Arguably Cecilia and Jenny have kicked themselves into their present situations. They make a good case, however, that they were always playing against a stacked deck, starting with the lower wages still routinely paid to women and continuing into the fact that “women’s work” like raising children registers zero on the earnings scale.

The fact that Cecilia talks Jenny into solving their common problem by robbing a bank gives The Simple Heist both its plotline and its first credibility stretch. The show counters this by making it clear that their exaggerated response to their dilemma is rooted in society’s exaggerated dismissal of their value.

Still, The Simple Heist runs less on feminist ideology than small recurring moments of quick, often subtle comedy – though the most hilarious subplot in the first episode revolves around one of Jenny’s disinterested students and his smug, clueless, cartoonish father.  

Further enhancing the show, both Kyle and Teijle look marvelously normal. They’re superb actresses who don’t come across as movie stars, and their characters reassure us that people of retirement age can still face complex issues and struggle with dramas that go beyond making pop-culture jokes about the way it used to be.

Without reading too much into a show whose primary mission is to entertain, it’s hard not to notice some ideas in The Simple Heist don’t stop at simple. 

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