The Intern

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Copyright Warner Brothers 2015
Copyright Warner Brothers 2015
Oh, to live in Nancy Meyers-land, where the 60’s and 70’s really are a golden age, where AARP-eligible Oscar winners go to be universally adored by bright young people, and where every sumptuously spacious but cozy home has the kitchen of your dreams. It’s not a coincidence that more than once in the movie one character compliments another on the decor. Or that you can now buy it all yourself to collect your own accolades, making the movie into an infomercial. It’s soft-focus, feel-good, female empowerment. So of course it’s all to a soundtrack of Pottery Barn-like upscale easy listening songs like “All About That Bass (No Treble).”

Following in the beautifully shod footsteps of Eli Wallach (“The Holiday”), Diane Keaton (“Something’s Gotta Give”), and Meryl Streep (“It’s Complicated”) comes Robert De Niro, with infinite charm and grace in a role he seldom gets to take: an ordinary guy.

De Niro plays Ben, 70 years old, living in Brooklyn, a widower after a long, happy marriage, retired, and looking for something to do. He has traveled, visited his grandchildren, taken classes. There is a single woman his age (Linda Lavin) who would love to date him. But he wants something more. “The nowhere to be thing hit me like a ton of bricks.”

And then he sees a flier. A local start-up is looking for “senior interns,” for no other reason than to make a cute movie plot, but okay. It’s an online sales company, selling fashion with some special ability to make sure the items fit properly), and he still uses a flip phone, but Ben decides to apply. And he is undaunted that applicants, instead of submitting a resume, are asked to upload a video about themselves. “I want to be challenged,” he explains, “and needed.”

He gets the job and is assigned to the start-up’s visionary but harried CEO, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Is the name supposed to make us think of Jane Austen? Could be. She has an only-in-movies adorably precocious moppet and a shaggy (in a cute, artisanal, Brooklyn way) devoted stay-at-home-dad of a husband. And, guess what? They live in an exquisitely decorated brownstone with a couple of legos and a backpack sprinkled around for relatability. Plus, she is played by Anne Hathaway, so she is stunningly beautiful in a we’d-totally-be-best-friends-if-she ever-met-me sort of way. She gets to channel her “Devil Wears Prada” co-star Meryl Streep as the boss who can be terrifying, but she knows and we know she’s there to be loveable, not scary. And he is endlessly calm and resourceful, whether cleaning up the office junk pile, crunching data, giving dating advice, or retrieving a disastrously mis-sent email.

In the normal world of movies, Jules would have a lot to teach Ben about being up with the times and there would be all kinds of cute/funny scenes with him learning what a hashtag is while imparting a few Yoda-like gems of wisdom. But this is Nancy Meyers-land, so the lessons all go the other way. And those lessons are not so much “why don’t you do it this way” as “you can do it!” It is undeniably refreshing, especially to those of us closer in age to Ben than Jules, but let’s face it. This is less a movie than it is comfort food and a glossy shelter magazine wishbook, sprinkled with fairy dust and truffle powder.

Meyers is all about you-go-girl empowerment, so her films are delectable visions of soft-focus fantasy, but there are some revealing moments of personal payback, too, as in her treatment of a wandering husband. It crosses the line from pleasant daydream to selfishness, entitlement, and denial. It’s one thing to create a fairy tale. It’s another to promote the idea that women can “have it all” without a lot of other people having a lot less. And maybe next time we could add some people of color to the cast. This is Brooklyn, for goodness’ sake. It’s practically a living version of “It’s a Small World.” How did the cast get so white?

But Ben’s handkerchief rule? That’s the real deal.

Parents should know that this film features adult themes including adultery and male sexual response. There are references to a sad death, drinking, including drinking and medication to deal with anxiety, and characters use some strong language. There is an awkward and unfunny joke about a child possibly having bipolar disorder.

Family discussion: What most surprises seniors and millennials about each other? What would you like to do when you retire? Do you agree with Jules’ decision?

If you like this, try: “It’s Complicated” and “The Holiday”

Related Tags:


Comedy Drama

7 Replies to “The Intern”

  1. THANK YOU. I thought I was the only one who noticed that there were no speaking parts for people of color, much less more than maybe one that was shown on screen (and she was a warehouse worker!).

  2. Too bad it wrongly characterized bipolar disorder. Making fun of a chronic mental illness isn’t funny. As one of the last acceptable groups of people to ostracize movies often do this. Which I am surprised about because bipolar disorder is proportionately over represented in the creative professions, so I would think Hollywood would be more sensitive.

    1. Ms. Sutton, thank you so much. I made a note about that when I saw the film and then forgot to put it in my review, which I will do right now. That was completely uncalled for and inappropriate.

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