Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine
Director: Nancy Meyers
Writer: Nancy Meyers
Watching this film was kind of an odd experience for me. I wasn’t expecting to like it because, based on the trailer, I was expecting a bland story with two great actors putting their talents to waste on the same tired clichés that we’ve all seen a million time before. In the end it wasn’t any of those things, or at least it wasn’t to the extent that I expected it to be. The characters were more layered than I expected. The story was more thoughtful than I expected. The comedy was more decent than I expected. All in all The Intern was better, smarter and more interesting than the film I expected it to be and yet, for some reason, I still didn’t enjoy it very much. I never felt very attached to the characters, the jokes never got a laugh out of me (well… maybe once), and the film failed to make any sort of a lasting impression on me. It wasn’t a terrible film; it just did nothing for me.
Ben Whittaker (Robert de Niro) is a retired widower who has found himself restless without a partner to keep him company or any work to keep him busy. He applies for a senior internship at an up-and-coming online fashion company as a way of getting a routine and perhaps even some fulfilment into his life. His boss is Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), the CEO and founder of the company whose commitment to her work keeps her busy minute by minute every day. In spite of being assured by Jules that she won’t have anything for him to do, Ben is still able to distinguish himself by performing other tasks around the office and by being an all-round nice guy to everyone. The office personnel soon learn that Ben has much wisdom to impart as an old-fashioned and accomplished elder that helps them all to cope with their daily stresses and problems. Jules in particular soon grows dependent on his help and advice and forms a friendship with him as he helps her to overcome the troubles of her professional and personal lives.
I’m kind of ambivalent about De Niro’s character. Essentially he is an all-round decent seventy-year-old man; he is kind, caring, charming, patient, hardworking, complacent and judicious. He is a perfectly pleasant character. The problem is that I didn’t find him at all interesting. The film basically made him too perfect; I haven’t seen a character this amiable since Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife who was literally an angel sent from heaven. Over the course of the film he never shows any limitations as a character, he barely has any obstacles to overcome, and he doesn’t accomplish anything for himself nor does he learn anything new about himself. He’s likeable enough but I couldn’t find anything compelling about him whatsoever. Jules however was more of a surprise. I figured she was a typical workaholic who simply needed to learn to loosen up more and to figure out what was really important in life (family and pleasure over work and all that good stuff). As I learned more about her though I found that her problems were actually more complex than I’d originally thought and that there weren’t any easy solutions for them. It may not have been the most substantial character arc but it still made me feel for her.
The generation gap is a theme that is made prominent in this film. A point is made about how the elderly have much to offer the younger generation including a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that has been built upon decades of experience. The film also points out the generational gap between the men and how somewhere along the line men seem to have lost their old sense of class, style and dignity. The younger guys of the office are portrayed here as an unruly bunch who have no idea how to treat women like ladies or how to look and act like the gentlemen of Ben’s generation. This gap is also employed for comical effect as it depicts Ben’s cluelessness with technology. It is an idea that works well enough I guess but none of it is stuff we haven’t heard or seen before.
As I was watching this film I saw that the audience I was with enjoyed it just fine. They laughed and gasped at all the right places and seemed contented when they left theatre. For whatever reason though this film simply didn’t do it for me. I think this might be because The Intern is essentially a film that hinges upon the talent and chemistry of its two leads. While both actors do well enough in their roles and do share a chemistry that is undeniable, it simply wasn’t enough to sell me on this film. While it wasn’t at all unpleasant to watch, it was still pretty forgettable. If a little bit of pleasantness and some light comedy is all you want from a film like this then you’ll probably like it just fine. This film just wasn’t for me.