Many people will complain that The Intern is not deep enough or pervasive enough. They will say it is too sentimental and trivializes real issues about marriage and careerism. All their arguments are valid, but they are also missing the point of a Nancy Meyers movie. The writer-director of films such as It’s Complicated (2009), Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and What Women Want (2000) isn’t known for making edgy, topical films. She makes enjoyable, rom-com fluffy movies. So yes, the story of a retiree working as an intern for a female boss in Brooklyn could have been more reflective and a modicum for our current times, but if you go into the theater expecting a Nancy Meyer’s movie, you’ll have a good time.
Robert DeNiro stars as Ben, a retired widower. On a whim, he gains an internship for a clothing line run by Jules (Anne Hathaway), a woman trying to juggle a burgeoning business while still being a mother. Her marriage with her stay-at-home husband Matt (Anders Holm) is suffering because of her addiction to work, an addiction that may force her to consider hiring a new CEO for the company. She looks down at Ben since he is 70 years old, but Ben does not give up on her, seeing the seams of her life start to unravel. He works hard and gains her friendship, helping her sort through her issues with her job, her marriage and her relationship with her young daughter.
If it sounds wishy-washy, it is. That’s okay. Nobody makes rom-coms anymore. You have summer blockbusters, dramatic Oscar winners, teen romances, animated films and dumb comedies. That’s all that gets made now. So perhaps The Intern is just a passable comedy, nothing better than a few laughs for a more mature crowd. It’s still a few laughs more than you would get at The Green Inferno which opened on the same day.
The internal politics of the film are also highly questionable. Without giving too much away, feminism takes a sort of half-hearted victory lap, taking a win in one subplot and getting lopped in another. There was really an opportunity to show a strong, independent woman CEO standing up for herself which sort of happens in the film, but that kind of determination also occasionally requires sacrifices and Hathaway’s character doesn’t need to make any.
In addition, the idea that the older generation did things more nobly than the current generation is also somewhat groan-worthy. Some things may be true (a loss of human interaction in today’s workplace) while others are not (the inherent sexism and racism). Ben could have been on just as much of a journey as Jules, learning about how certain things done today improve upon things done yesterday, learning how to take orders from a woman for the first time in his life. However he already starts the movie having learned all this. In effect, he is perfect and not that dynamic (similar to Keanu Reeves in Something’s Gotta Give).
Anne Hathaway works in the film, but Robert DeNiro really stars. He is highly relatable, has perfect comic timing and brings the best out of the rest of the cast. It is hard to believe that he once played vicious killers in films such as Taxi Driver (1976) and Goodfellas (1990), but it just goes to show you that he is one of the greatest actors of our time.
The Intern will make you laugh. It will not make you cry. It does not stick with you or make you think. It is an enjoyable night out. Is that really so terrible?