Editor’s Note: The Intern opened in wide theatrical release September 25, 2015.
The trailer for Nancy Meyers’ The Intern seems to present the film as solely a comedy, suggesting two hours filled with gaffes and jokes regarding the older generation struggling to fit in with today’s technology-obsessed, socially inept twenty- and thirty-somethings. Refreshingly, The Intern is much more of a relatable tale of two personalities from different eras who end up finding they need each other in different ways, the storyline punctuated, of course, by the requisite jokes and commentary concerning the vastly different generations.
The Intern reminds us that we are ultimately in control of our own lives, and that, as we are only human at the end of the day, sometimes we must swallow our pride and ask our friends for help.
Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) is a young entrepreneur whose online women’s clothing company, About the Fit, grew in less than a year from an employee base of 25 to 220; it accomplished, as she puts it, its five-year goal in nine months. She is a mother and a wife whose husband quit his own successful career to stay at home with their daughter, allowing Jules to grow her company and consequently creating a family dynamic that, despite Jules’ efforts, causes tension in her marriage. She doesn’t sleep enough, she doesn’t eat enough, and in trying to be fully present in all areas of her life, she is barely keeping her head above water. A request from her investors sends Jules into a spin, and causes her to question all of her decisions the past nine months of her life.
Enter Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a seventy-year-old widower who becomes an intern at About the Fit after applying for their senior intern program. He is initially befuddled by the technology and the concept of an exclusively Internet retailer, but adapts quietly and quickly, befriending his young coworkers, resolutely wearing his suit and tie every day, and, rather predictably, becoming the office go-to person for advice and wisdom; Ben is the self-effacing grandfather character type, and De Niro plays him endearingly, with humility, humanity, and unique spark. Ben is assigned to be Jules’ intern, and while she initially ignores Ben and behaves flippantly, she (spoiler) realizes how much she needs him and his calming presence and advice gained through a forty-year business career in her life. Ben becomes not just an intern to Jules, but a mentor, protector, and, ultimately, friend, as he gently guides her through navigating the pros and cons of her investors’ request, and a surprise personal obstacle.
Ben is the self-effacing grandfather character type, and De Niro plays him endearingly, with humility, humanity, and unique spark.
The Intern reminds us that we are ultimately in control of our own lives, and that, as we are only human at the end of the day, sometimes we must swallow our pride and ask our friends for help. It’s also a reminder than everyone, no matter their age or past or present experiences, has their own character and insight to share, and if we allow ourselves a moment to look beyond the end of our nose, we can forge valuable new friendships and add a great deal of value to our lives. A sequence involving a house break-in is rather unnecessary and out-of-place, which otherwise generally strikes a satisfying balance between investigating the complex topic of today’s modern wife and husband roles, and comparing “the good old days” with the many advancements and possibilities of today.
What is refreshing about The Intern is that it is not an entirely formulaic film filled with cheesy jokes about how technologically clueless senior citizens are, and neither does it negatively belabour the often-discussed topic of today’s more casual office dynamics and young peoples’ difficulties with verbal communication, as a reliance on technological interaction only continues to grow; but, the storyline disappointingly does not take risks beyond the borders of what an audience might expect. The Intern is watchable on an afternoon when there might not be much else to watch, and is not an experience that provokes much thought or introspection.
Despite a refreshing take on workplace and generational conflict, The Intern never takes risks, relegating the film to lazy afternoon fare.