Synopsis: 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin.
Stars: Robert De Niro, Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway,Rene Russo, Anders Holm, Adam DeVine, Andrew Rannells,Linda Lavin, Christina Scherer, Celia Weston, JoJo Kushner,Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley, Nat Wolff
Director: Nancy Meyers
Running Length: 121 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Let’s start this review off by going the full disclosure route and saying that I’m not a huge fan of the movies that Nancy Meyers started to make after splitting with her husband, Charles Shyer. Together, the two were responsible for films like Private Benjamin, Baby Boom, Irreconcilable Differences, and the remake of Father of the Bride and its sequel (let’s skip over their clunker I Love Trouble). As a standalone writer/director, Meyers has been responsible for a trio of films often described as white-women fantasies: The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, and, most recently, It’s Complicated. All three of these have had dynamite casts with strong female leads…but they all seemed to take place in an alternate universe where every surface is spotless, every arm is covered in taupe cashmere, and no problem can’t be solved over a glass of white whine, oops…wine. It’s escapist entertainment, I get it, but they’re carb-free meals for this critic that craves some starch.
So I came to The Intern with some pre-conceived notions of how it would all play out. In all honesty the film came at the right time for me and caught me in the perfect mood, it’s a guilt free bit of whimsy that wasn’t as interminable as previous Meyers outings. Bouncing around in development hell for quite some time, it was originally imagined as a vehicle for Tina Fey and though the high-powered career woman intended for her has had a few years shaved off, it’s not hard to see how Fey would have fit into the central character now played by Anne Hathaway.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Opening with the kind of “let me bring you up to speed” monologue that Meyers excels in, Robert De Niro’s (Silver Linings Playbook) Ben details how he came to be applying for a senior internship at About the Fit. A widower, after 40 years in working his 9-5 job the retired Ben has traveled the world, doted on his grandkids, learned a few new languages, and now doesn’t quite know what to do next. A chance glance at an ad tacked outside his local grocery gets him in the door at the fashion start-up.
Clearly overqualified for the job, he’s matched with none other than the founder (Hathaway) of the company who, in true Driving Miss Daisy fashion, tells him he’s not needed or really wanted. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the two will be at odds on the outset before becoming a cohesive unit so let’s focus more on where the film turns up some unexpected delights.
The good news starts at the top with De Niro and Hathaway (Interstellar) clocking in surprisingly charming performances. De Niro doesn’t seem to be very discerning in his role selections as of late but he’s a good fit with the kindly elder who isn’t merely there to offer sage advice but to lend a hand as well as a shoulder to his young boss. Hathaway too is downright delightful as Jules (because, of course that’s her name) and I couldn’t help but feel like the character was a more seasoned version of the one she played in The Devil Wears Prada.
Echoing Baby Boom, the main question The Intern seems to be asking is ‘Can women have it all?’ Can they have the high paying job, can they run a business, can they stand on their own two feet and still manage to keep a stable family life? Jules’ husband (Anders Holm) is a stay-at-home dad, parenting their girl while his wife is working and Meyers illustrates often the sacrifices both are making to keep up with the daily grind.
The problem is that the question doesn’t seem to be as relevant as it was back in the late 80s and for a film set in the new millennium it feels a bit backward in its thinking. Yes, we know that wage equality between males and females still has a long way to go and that the roles of wives and husbands have had some fluidity in the past decade. But are we really saying that women have to choose between the two? Alarmingly, Meyers puts her female lead to that test several times and it’s proof of Hathaway’s charisma that she’s able to overcome that dinosaur of a notion and still maintain some semblance of professionalism.
Making our way down the cast list, things get a bit rocky. Rene Russo (Nightcrawler) is always a welcome presence and since Meyers can’t clothe Hathaway in her favorite cream colors, Russo is the model for an array of perfectly ivory and billowy beige ensembles. She’s the company masseuse that takes a liking to De Niro and while that relationship is only explored when the movie remembers to do so, it’s a welcome reminder that age-appropriate couplings are alive and well in Meyers’ world.
It’s never quite clear what Andrew Rannells (Bachelorette) actually does at the company (is he a co-founder? is he co-owner?) but he disappears halfway through the film so it’s quite possible he was Jules’s imaginary friend. Linda Lavin, looking positively mummified, pops up all too briefly to try and get De Niro in the sack and a trio of bro-ish, dumb-ish, co-workers of De Niro (lead by the always annoying Adam DeVine, Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2) seem to have been crafted for an ill-advised foray into slapstick comedy that occupies a labored fifteen minutes in the middle of the film. Holm strikes out big time as the benign husband that may not be quite as content to play second fiddle as he appears to be. Reading his lines as if he’s making fun of their supposed sincerity, he’s the one thundercloud in an otherwise sunny film.
I’ll admit that even though it has its faults, The Intern was more pleasant than it had any right to be. It’s lead by two strong performances and, while Meyers doesn’t seem to have anything new to say about the state of affairs in business, she has produced a crisp apple of a film, tart when it has to be and juicy when called for.