THE INTERN (2015)
Starring Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro, Anders Holm, Rene Russo, Andrew Runnells, Andrew Rannells, Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Christina Scherer, JoJo Kushner, Linda Lavin, Celia Weston, Jason Orley, Molly Bernard, Christine Evangelista, Wallis Currie-Wood, Nat Wolff, Annie Funke, Christina Brucato and the voice of Mary Kay Place.
Screenplay by Nancy Meyers.
Directed by Nancy Meyers.
Distributed by Warner Brothers. 121 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a Nancy Meyers movie?
It is a seductive world full of beautiful, intelligent, sensitive people with cool, high-paying jobs, spectacular homes and smashing wardrobes. Money is not a concern. Love is either long-lived and comfortable, or waiting just around the corner for those unfortunate few who are temporarily between soul mates. Oh, sure, there are sad moments – more often than not due to infidelity – but that is usually worked through quickly and relatively painlessly. Kids are adorable and almost no trouble. And there is always… always… a happy ending.
Over the last couple of decades Meyers has created a good niche in Hollywood on these sweet-but-not-totally cloying confections (sort of like Garry Marshall without the massive sappiness). She started as a screenwriter (the Father of the Bride movies) and then graduated to writer/director (The Parent Trap, What Women Want, Something’s Got To Give, The Holiday, It’s Complicated).
Her smart, funny romantic comedies, which seem to come every few years, are particularly needed since the too-early death a few years ago of Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail), one of the few smart and funny female writer/directors who had become powerful in movies, and one who also courted Meyers’ uptown-smart romantic (and slightly older) demographic.
Meyers’ latest soufflé is The Intern, and it stands in good stead in the auteur‘s body of work. In fact, it’s probably her best film since Something’s Got To Give.
Meyers picks up the premise that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson so spectacularly whiffed at a couple of years ago in the similarly titled and themed The Internship: age-inappropriate old-school business people taking unpaid gigs at upstart new tech companies and using their life experience to teach the crazy kids a bit about business, the world and life.
The tech business is All That Fits, a flourishing dotcom start-up selling women’s clothing created by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Jules is a pixie and a business-savant. She puts in long hours, answers customer service calls (to keep in touch with the needs of the clients), sweats every order or every warehouse problem, and whimsically rides her bike across the company’s huge loft office space (no actual offices, she doesn’t like walls in between people). Jules created the business with nothing, ten years later it has become an international success, catching the eyes of huge money men, on the verge of going supernova. She is also described by pretty much everyone as very hard to work for, though there is very little evidence of her dragon-lady tendencies.
One of her top advisors decides to create a senior internship program – getting retired business people who have nothing much to do with their time to come in and share their commercial acumen.
The intern who is assigned to Jules is Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro). Ben is a recent widower who spent 40 years in management for a company which made a now mostly obsolete product – telephone directories. Ben is 70 years young, missing his late wife and getting tired of going to friends’ funerals. Fighting his own obsolescence, he has determined to keep himself busy during the day, getting out of his spectacular Park Slope brownstone during the day and keeping himself busy. He hasn’t dated since his wife died, though a local widow (played by Linda Lavin) has shown herself to be very interested.
Noticing a flier for the senior internship, Ben decides that is just what he needs to keep himself busy and give his life a purpose. He goes in to work every day in a full suit and tie (even though most of the kids wear jeans and t-shirts), does as much as he can do to keep busy and help anyway he can. (In a bit of an over-coincidental plot point that is really probably unneeded, the new business’ offices are the exact same offices where he worked for 40 years on the phone books.)
At first Jules is a bit resistant to having this older guy following her around, but quickly he befriends her husband and adorable little daughter and shows himself to have some interesting and intelligent insights into the business. Frankly, sometimes he’s a bit of a brown-noser, but Jules becomes more and more attached to him and more reliant on his old-school business smarts. Eventually they become friends and he becomes her confidant in her private life and marriage problems as well as her business doubts on bringing in a new CEO to take over the company as it expands beyond her wildest dreams.
It’s a sweet-if-lightweight story, well-told and mostly terrifically acted.
The one slight problem, acting-wise, is sadly coming from one of the most respected names in the art form: Robert De Niro. (Let’s face it, he’s pretty much been coasting on his long-tarnished reputation since Casino, maybe even Goodfellas.) While this is one of his better performances in recent years and he mostly downplays his recent penchant for over-acting, it seems his repertoire of Meet the Fockers mugging and double-takes has become engrained to the point that it is involuntary. Every time he has a good head of steam going as an actor, he sabotages himself with an overly broad eyebrow lift or a calculatedly goofy grin.
Luckily Hathaway is there to rescue the film every time that De Niro’s method over-acting threatens to capsize things. Her charisma and charm keep this sweet fable grounded and fun.
If Nancy Meyer’s New York is not exactly like the New York that most of us know – both in good ways (how is it possible for everyone be this fabulous?) and bad (is there a single person of color in the film?) – it is a very nice place to visit for a couple of hours.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 3, 2015.