Director: Nancy Meyer
Starring: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm, Zack Pearlman, Linda Lavin, and Andrew Rannells
Warner Bros. Pictures
Twenty-five years ago this week “Goodfellas” was released in theaters, it marked another career defining role for Robert De Niro to add to his already impressive list of characters. This week Robert De Niro is in another role, one that probably won’t crack the top ten in his career but is notable because it is far less threatening and intimidating than most of the roles he is known for. De Niro plays a retired senior citizen looking for a meaningful opportunity that will keep him away from the tiresome retirement routine of daily coffee shop visits and far too often funerals. Director and writer Nancy Meyer, “Something’s Gotta Give” and “It’s Complicated”, has built a career off heartwarming and sentimental storytelling. With “The Intern” it’s more of the same repeated material, with dramatic and comedic setups that sometimes work and other times don’t, the result is simplistic and unchallenging storytelling, a quality some will undoubtedly enjoy.
Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) is an overnight success in the e-retail fashion market, building a company filled with young employees and guided by Jules’s “take no prisoners” approach. Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a 70 year-old widowed retiree who has traveled the world, visits his son and grandchildren, and maintains a strict schedule of daily activities to fill time. Still, Ben is eager for a change and submits a video application to Jules’s company for a senior internship. Ben gets the job and is assigned to Jules.
Ms. Meyer operates the script with a clear emphasis on two different kinds of characters, the independent, hard-working entrepreneur mom and the gentleman standard of yesteryear. Jules is a combination of different issues, playing the role of self-confidence and independence in the professional world and the guiding hand of nurture and love as mother and wife, all while trying to balance the daily trials of being a woman in the 21st century, judged and maligned around every corner by blatant and unexpected foes. Ben is a man from a different mold, a hardworking, wake-up early, dress-for-success era of men who lived by a basic set of family and work values. In “The Intern” Ben is surrounded by the current trend of men who don’t tuck their shirts in, welcome unkempt facial hair, and dance around issues with women rather than taking a forward attempt at chivalry. Ms. Meyer takes hold of these issues and fashions them with varying forms of success, while Jules mostly comes off admirably with influential and self-assured qualities, she is also undermined with questionable choices that would make one utter “how has she made it this far”. Ben’s honest ideals and charming virtues are justly arranged some moments, while in other moments they seem lost in the changing tides of societal and economic structures. Many of these insights will be overlooked because “The Intern” is superficially appealing with humorous setups and a great choice by Ms. Meyer to cast Robert De Niro.
Mr. De Niro is in complete control, guiding the performance with grinning, better to call it smirking, optimism without turning into a begrudging old man who yells at the kids on his lawn. Anne Hathaway plays off Mr. De Niro throughout the film. Jules’s slow appreciation of Ben comes about with a mix of paternal admiration and then unlikely friendship, it’s unfortunate that most of her character is merely a shell of self-defeating ideas. Still, without these two actors the film wouldn’t be as successfully executed.
“The Intern” seems like it wants to say much more about age, work culture, gender differences, and feminism but instead, and perhaps rightly so, takes the easier route by diligently composing a film that forces viewers to leave the theater with warm feelings and a smile.
3.25 out of 5.00