The Intern is an insubstantial Nancy Meyers comedy kept afloat by Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway’s screen chemistry.
The Intern stars Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker, a 70-year old widower and longtime New York resident who has grown frustrated with the retirement lifestyle and finds himself unable to fill “the hole” that he now feels in his day-to-day existence. An opportunity to fix his problem presents itself to Ben in the form of an intern program that is aimed at senior citizens, offered by a fast-rising fashion based e-commerce company, founded by one Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).
Ben applies and is selected for the program, which leads to him becoming Jule’s assistant; though at first put off by Ben’s straightforward polite and supportive manner, the meticulous and passionate Jules eventually starts to warm to her “senior intern.” Soon Ben proves to be not just a model employee who brings out the best in his younger co-workers, but also a good friend who has both the experience and patience to help Jules to make important decisions that concern not just the future of her company, but also her own personal life and happiness.
The Intern is the new film written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who (similar to a director like Woody Allen) has spent the past fifteen years churning out original comedies that revolve around the problems of middle-upper class people – with such movies as What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, and It’s Complicated. Meyers’ directorial efforts also tend to be of a fluffier variety, and that is also the case with The Intern… which is not to say the film doesn’t have its appeal.
Meyer’s Intern screenplay is relatively episodic in its structure, shifting gears from being a 21st century workplace comedy during its first act (which is also the least successful act), to being a buddy comedy about Ben and Jules with its second act (the best part of the narrative), before becoming a relationship melodrama in a third act that (like most conflicts in the movie) gets wrapped up a bit too easily. The film likewise has mixed success when it blends sitcom hijinks and commentary on gender-based double standards in the work force, as well as differences between Baby Boomer and Millennial generational outlooks. Meyers avoids creating any ungainly tonal shifts though, instead balancing the film’s comedic and dramatic beats with a deft hand, while at the same time keeping the proceedings pleasant enough to prevent this soufflé of a movie from collapsing.
Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt (The Help, Get on Up) and Meyers filmed The Intern in a visually neat and tidy fashion – though not an interesting one – but the true craftsmanship of the movie lies with its production design. The world of The Intern provides an idyllic vision of the New York life, where everything is polished to a shine, while even lifelong working-class people can afford to maintain well-furnished homes/apartments boasting impressive interior design. It’s a fantasy setting, in other words, but that’s part of The Intern‘s appeal – and though the movie’s world is too whitebread and unrealistic for its own good (especially when it tries to be serious or thoughtful), Meyers and her collaborators are to be commended for making the setting a handsome one to look at.
The relationship between Ben and Jules is the glue holding The Intern together, as Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway (who are both Oscar-winners, after all) bring a solid combination of screen chemistry and heart to their characters, making the friendship that forms between them all the more convincing. Ben is a good-natured character (with patience to spare) who boarders on being unbelievable, but De Niro injects the character with enough in the way of distinct mannerisms and quirks to ensure that he’s more than a one-note kindly grandpa. Meanwhile, Jules is not per se a stretch for Hathaway, as the character is a self-deprecating Type A personality that she’s played before, but all the same, Hathaway handles the character’s harder edges and vulnerabilities with equal aplomb.
Most of the supporting characters in The Intern are the type of two-dimensional archetypes that one expects to find in your average workplace comedy, but they are brought to life by an overall likable and talented cast – including, Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect), Zack Pearlman (The Inbetweeners), Jason Orley (1600 Penn), and Andrew Rannells (Girls). Meanwhile, Rene Russo has a small role as the masseuse for Jules’ company – and the love interest for Ben – while Anders Holm (DeVine’s Workaholics costar) gets a slightly meatier role as Jules’ husband, Matt. Some viewers will also recognize the actors, such as Nat Wolff (Paper Towns), who make brief appearances throughout the film… even if the cameos aren’t that memorable, otherwise.
In the end, The Intern is an insubstantial Nancy Meyers comedy kept afloat by Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway’s screen chemistry. The film broaches a number of interesting topics (not always in the most organic fashion, admittedly) without offering much insight through its comical setups, yet enough of the comedy that gets thrown at the wall sticks – while the drama is grounded by the touching bond between the movie’s lead characters. As far as date night options go (or films that you can watch with your parents), you could do much worse.
The Intern is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 121 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and brief strong language.
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