The Intern (2015)

Writer & Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Andrew Rannells, Celia Weston, Mary Kay Place.

The Intern is the type of pleasant but inconsequential movie that you watch on a weekend evening because you want something that will be entertaining, will take up little emotional involvement, and will not leave a bad flavor in your mouth. In many ways this is the type of description that encompasses the majority of writer and director Nancy Meyers’ movies, whose oeuvre includes The Parent Trap remake, What Women Want, The Holiday, and Something’s Gotta Give. All of these films satisfy a craving for something light, they skew a little more mature than your average teen rom-com or film about a twenty-soemthing ingenue obsessed with walking down the aisle, and usually are very well casted with respectable stars who seem to be enjoying their roles without hamming it up too much.

In this latest feature Robert De Niro stars as Ben Whittaker, a retired widower unhappy with his humdrum life who decides to take advantage of a startup’s intern program geared towards senior citizens. De Niro is actually quite impressive and surprising in this role, and he manages to turn in a performance that doesn’t rely on the bad habits that have made up his acting in recent years and that have somewhat turned him into a caricature of his former self. De Niro’s Ben is nuanced, sympathetic, realistic, and, most importantly, profoundly likable – he is definitely the best thing about this movie.

Ben is assigned to work directly for the online fashion company’s founder and CEO Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway. Hathaway is obviously a capable actress and she does really well with the emotional moments in the film, she gels well with her costars, and her (platonic) chemistry with De Niro is really great. At the same time I wondered throughout if Hathaway was miscast or if her role should have been changed, because the film seemed not to know what to do with her character. Jules at times is supposed to be a bit of a bitch, especially towards Ben, but Hathaway is too nice and likable in the role, so she just comes off as flaky. Jules is also supposed to be somewhat of a whimsical hipster (she bikes around the office!), but Hathaway is too poised and elegant to pull off that type of Brooklynite pretentiousness. Tonally the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants Jules to be.

At least Jules has some layers and the friendship that the film depicts between her and Ben is lovely and believable and realistic. Everyone else in the film is just an archetype and one-dimensional at best. From Jules’ put-upon assistant, to her lovely and precocious daughter, the office’s motley group of man-children, Celia Weston’s unfortunate clueless old lady, the film only cared about its two leads, and everyone else ended up barely registering as human.

I saw the film a few days ago and already I am having a hard time remembering specifics about it. I had a pleasant time watching the story and nothing offended or captivated me. I did not particularly love the twist the storyline takes for its last third as it felt very forced and the drama incongruous with the tone of the film to that point – basically an unnecessary plot-line just to muster up some extra drama. The film, though, is fine and if you’re trapped at home due to a snow storm like I was last weekend, the movie will do the trick.

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