Thursday, October 08, 2015
THE INTERN (Nancy Meyers, 2015)
70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) finds retired life unfulfilling, so in THE INTERN he looks for an apprenticeship opportunity that will put him back in the working world. Ben’s introduction to the high tech business environment comes via the senior intern program at a startup e-commerce fashion retailer in Brooklyn where he’s assigned to be the intern for the site’s founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Although Ben is well-liked and effective around the bustling office, initially Jules doesn’t see the value in letting Ben assist her with the zillion and one things keeping her busy.
Jules is justifiably preoccupied with maintaining standards and overseeing the growth of her eighteen-month-old operation . She’s also being pressured by investors to hire a chief executive officer. The rationale is that a more seasoned manager can ease her workload and continue the company’s expansion, but because she would be giving up some control, the request feels like a potential demotion.
Middle of the road crowdpleasers like THE INTERN are something of an endangered species at the movie theater. It’s too modest for those drawn to the almost-weekly spectacle films striving to be blockbusters and those looking for artier or prestige-driven fare. This type of film has virtues like telling a story simply and intelligently and being appealing without forcing it. Writer-director Nancy Meyers specializes in this kind of mainstream entertainment that doesn’t always get its critical due. With THE INTERN she produces one of her better creations. It’s a warm, funny film that fleshes out two engaging characters not bent according to the situation’s restrictions.
When De Niro has father or father figure types, he’s still usually a tough guy, but in THE INTERN he’s a delight playing the equivalent of the workplace’s grandpa. Through his dress and demeanor he carries a quiet dignity about the character. It’s critical that Meyers writes Ben as resource waiting to be tapped than an expert itching to spew the knowledge he’s amassed from a lifetime in business. De Niro embodies patience in THE INTERN. Ben truly is grateful to have the chance to work with Jules.
The harried thirtysomething businesswoman trying to balance career and family is often a thankless role, but Meyers is smart in demonstrating that Jules is right to want to be in command of her path, even if society’s expectations can be a burden. THE INTERN doesn’t hide the trade-offs or judge the decisions Jules must make. Hathaway conveys the strain of trying to have it all while attempting to appear in good spirits through the challenges.
THE INTERN soaks up the good vibes from De Niro and Hathaway acclimating to one another and finds room for humorous subplots that aren’t essential to the main storyline. A heist-like operation in which Ben and some other guys at the office break into Jules’ mother’s home to delete an e-mail may be the most amusing scene in the film.