Writer/director Nancy Meyers has been making people laugh in the dark for over almost 4 decades, skewering our romantic foibles in such pieces of comedic fluff as Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, It’s Complicated and her latest, an examination of age, gender and workforce mores. While not as consistently clever as the best of her films, this one does provide a number of shrewd observations about unspoken societal gender expectations along with a pair of performances guaranteed to offer future employment for its leads.
Ann Hathaway (Les Misérables, Interstellar) plays Jules, a successful, workaholic Internet entrepreneur whose startup company has grown so rapidly she has little time for her husband and young daughter. She’s also worried her venture capital investors, who are concerned about her ability to continue expanding the business without more senior staff. As The Intern begins, Jules is urged to find a CEO to take over day-to-day operations. At the same time, a new company policy instituted by her head of personnel delivers an additional headache in the person a 70 year old retiree named Ben (Robert De Niro), who’s just won a coveted senior intern position at Jules’ company.
Jules’ Type-A personality initially rejects the imposition of an intern into her frantic life, but through a series of storyline machinations, she comes to realize Ben’s contributions to her growing efficiency as well as the personal values he quietly exudes. As their relationship deepens, Jules begins to confide in him about the tensions in her personal life and slowly grows to deeply respect his point of view on the all-important question of whether she should share authority in the company with an outsider. Her hectic schedule doesn’t allow much time for husband Matt (Anders Holm) and their daughter, but Ben strenuously urges Jules not to give up control of the business her talents and drive have created without carefully examining the competing tradeoffs she faces. Does a successful business career preclude enjoying a fulfilling family life? Considering the Ms. Meyers’ oeuvre, is there any doubt?
While The Intern’s rambling screenplay lacks the consistent sparkle of writer’s typical dialogue, the performances by Hathaway and De Niro provide much to appreciate; Hathaway’s highly expressive face, anchored in her broad grin, compliment the fervor she brings to Jules’ supercharged executive whose concentration on the details of her position often crowd out any sensitivity to the feelings of her subordinates and family. She’s a driven but pleasant woman and it’s to Hathaway’s credit that she’s so annoyingly likeable. Not so her husband; as played by Anders Holm, he’s nothing more than a nerdy cipher, neither foil for his spouse nor the unseen girlfriend Jules must contend with.
De Niro’s long career spans half a century and over 100 roles, ranging from the astounding performances of his early films (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver) to those at the height of his box-office popularity (The Godfather Trilogy, Raging Bull, The Deer Hunter) and on to more than 3 dozen roles over that last 20 years in nearly every genre of Hollywood’s output including a handful of money-making comedic clunkers, (Meet The Fockers, Big Wedding, Little Fockers). But his comedic skills are on quiet display here as he delivers a reflective portrait of a life quietly but purposefully lived that has brought him personal satisfaction along with the opportunity to enjoy a successful marriage and accompanying parenthood. Ben’s an adult, using his demeanor and principled view of work to mentor not only his attractive, harried boss but many of the young coworkers in Jules’ frantic start-up who can’t understand his motives for continuing to work. Yet as the graceful Japanese “tai chi” exercise sessions that bracket Intern’s opening and closing scenes suggest, Ben’s as fully capable of future success as his beleaguered boss …
The Verdict? Not one of Ms. Meyers’ best, but a pleasant diversion with attractive performances from both leads.
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