De Niro and Hathaway can only carry The Intern for so long
Largely inoffensive if a bit tone oblivious, The Intern suggests a lot of experience goes a long way even in the modern business world. There’s a better, more complex look at the workplace generation gap, but Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway mostly make do with what they’ve got.
Seeking new challenges following the death of his wife, Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) accepts an offer to be an intern with a rising startup led by the slightly quirky Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). With her company soaring faster than she can navigate, Jules’ investors want her to hire a CEO. Although initially reluctant to go along with her advisor Cameron’s (Andrew Rannells) plans, Jules keeps an open mind on both the potential CEO and her new intern.
Ben quickly proves to be a modern day Mary Poppins. There’s no situation he can’t resolve, he’s got the perfect answer for everything and he always knows just what to say. Ben’s knack for detail, personal accountability and kind nature quickly earns everyone’s respect and admiration.
And if that wasn’t enough, the hottie masseuse Fiona (Renee Russo) takes an immediate liking to him because Ben needed a love interest as well. Even with that subplot, it’s pretty easy for Ben. There’s no courting needed as Fiona is lovestruck from the first moment. Ben’s a bit of a hot commodity as he’s also got fellow retiree Patty (Linda Lavin) desperate for another date.
Jules is portrayed like she was some clueless incompetent completely in over her head, which ignores the fact that she was bold, organized and savvy enough to kick off the business in the first place. To further position her as in desperate need of a fairy godfather, Jules is mostly absent from the life of her stay at home husband Matt (Anders Holm) and daughter Paige (a precocious JoJo Kushner).
The film’s entire premise would be far more forgivable if it was written and directed by a man. The notion that all a young woman needs to get her life on track is a sage fatherly figure complete with handkerchief isn’t just outdated, it’s insulting. You could almost understand a man being so clueless as to think all a woman needs to fix everything is a man.
Nancy Meyers handles both directing and screenwriting duties. Meyers, the screenwriter of the wonderful Father of the Bride films, is enamored with the idea of a kindly father/father figure making a chaotic world calm down, but it’s misguided here. And that’s mostly due to Meyers not giving Jules enough credit or making Ben having his own journey of self-discovery. Would it have been too much to show Ben having some prolonged adjustment period in working in an Internet start-up besides not knowing how to turn the computer on?
These mismatched pairings work best when both parties learn a valuable life lesson from the other. Here, Ben has to basically fix Jules’ life while Jules shows him how to sign up for Facebook. That’s a pretty terrible trade since Ben doesn’t seem the type to be amused by cat videos and memes.
Meyers even appears to acknowledge the cliché of a successful career woman not being able to have it all yet dutifully marks off every box on the checklist.
Clocking in at two hours, the film is far too long for the story it needs to tell. A late twist added in the home stretch adds nothing to the film beyond some forced, unnecessary drama. I’d go in greater detail, but it’s truly the only thing with The Intern that could be spoiled.
Despite its condescending tone, The Intern almost succeeds on the strength of its leads. De Niro is at his kindly, grandfatherly best. He’s gentle, caring and surprisingly sweet.
Hathaway has such an inviting presence and she continues to show her tremendous versatility. It’s Hathaway who provides the most fully developed character. She shows Jules at her most driven, insecure and vulnerable. While Ben often comes across too good to be true, Jules is the most genuine character in the film.
The Intern doesn’t quite get the job done as a workplace comedy or a drama. Thanks to its misguided plot and failure to fully realize its potential this isn’t worthy of a recommendation.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Like De Niro? I’ve reviewed several of his films including The Family, Grudge Match and Silver Linings Playbook. More of a Hathaway fan? Check out her films like Les Miserables, Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises and Valentine’s Day.