The Intern (2015)

The Intern (2015)
  • Time: 121 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Nancy Meyers
  • Cast: Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro, Nat Wolff, Rene Russo


70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin.


  • The Intern, like all of writer-director Nancy Meyers’ films, is an enormously diverting confection that features beautifully furnished homes and modern office spaces, polished people who have a way with a wisecrack, and actors whose personalities power the narrative. Meyers, along with the late Nora Ephron, is an analog filmmaker in a digital world, and that can be as refreshing as it is problematic.

    Looking over her filmography, it’s easy to imagine Diane Keaton’s harried career woman in Baby Boom being taken on by Rosalind Russell in the Thirties, or Myrna Loy and William Powell reuniting to portray the purportedly past their prime lovers of Something’s Gotta Give. Their snap, crackle, and pop banter would be delivered whilst wearing envy-inducing wardrobe by Adrian and surrounded by the pristine and wholly impractical art direction of Cedric Gibbons. Indeed, Meyers loves depicting how people, particularly women, with perfect lives overcome fairly trifling problems. The Intern continues this thematic line and, whilst enjoyable and characteristically feel-good, it may be too genial and untroubled for its own good.

    Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a widower and retired executive, two things that sound alarms in Meyers’ universe where marriage and career are the primary aspirations. He has traveled the world, taken up hobbies, and has done everything he can to keep moving – anything to avoid confronting the emptiness of his day – but he knows the only thing that will make him whole again is work. As luck would have it, a senior internship program has just been established at a Brooklyn start-up. And so Ben finds himself the intern for the online fashion retailer’s founder and CEO, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

    Jules is a perfectionist and workaholic, thoroughly committed to the company. She is the type who will man the customer service and show workers at the shipping factory how to pack the contents so the wrapping tissue remains uncrumpled upon delivery. She is also the sort who rides around the open space of the office on a bicycle, gets weirded out by people who don’t blink, schedules meetings at 3:55PM, and acknowledges how difficult she is to work with and for, though this strikes one as more tell than show on the film’s part. Jules goes above and beyond, so when she balks at the investors suggesting hiring another CEO to help deal with managing the ever-expanding business, her resistance is less about ceding control than being diminished in a job that she so clearly loves.

    That Jules doesn’t come off as an insufferable irritant is a huge testament to Hathaway, who shades the beigeness of her character and makes her dilemma of how to have it all both relatable and consequential. The gradual relationship that develops between Jules and Ben is one that is based on mutual respect and admiration, and both actors nicely spark off one another. De Niro is tremendously charming and such a pleasure to watch interacting with all of his co-stars that one can understand all the unnecessary asides Meyers tosses in. His interactions with this twentysomething compatriots (Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, and Jason Orley) work, the caper involving deleting an email from Jules’ mother’s laptop does not. The latter is so jarringly off-key, not just for the film but for all the characters involved.

    Also striking some dissonant chords: the odd manner in which Jules is somewhat handicapped – though her life is one big hustle and bustle, she hardly ever seems to be actually moving of her own volition (she’s either sitting, standing, on the bike, or being driven around); the treatment of Linda Lavin’s Patty, whose romantic overtures are presented as unwanted and off-putting, compared to Rene Russo’s golden-haired office masseuse, who’s posited as Ben’s more ideal love interest; Jules’s cringe-inducing lament on the decline of Ben’s brand of old-fashioned masculinity. There are actually some interesting points made in the latter – girls become women, but men become boys and that is more acceptable and less criticised – but these seem undercut by how the plight of Jules is presented. Here is a strong, independent woman who has no support from the female figures in her life (highly critical mother, equally critical stay-at-home moms) that it takes a 70-year-old man to celebrate her worth.

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  • 2015’s The Intern (my latest review) is great. There I said it. This is feel good, cotton candy people. You stagger out of the theater with a sense of giddiness. Then you say to yourself, “wow, that’s a real film”. Its lead (Mr. Robert De Niro) has never been more likable. You wouldn’t even know it’s the same guy who played psychotics (Taxi Driver, Cape Fear), hardened criminals (Heat, The Family), and ornery grandpappys (Meet the Fockers, Little Fockers) some years ago. Crazy. With his co- star being Anne Hathaway (also very likable), screen chemistry is indeed abounding. A friendship develops between their characters producing an inner wallop. Now in all honesty, I don’t ever cry at the movies. Here, I got the sniffles and that’s saying something.

    As directed by Nancy Meyers, “Intern” has one of her trademarks written all over it. That would be the adage of well-off people having problems (in relationships) that aren’t life-threatening. You could also include the notion of two protagonists sharing scenes and being worlds apart in age (remember Keanu Reeves and Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give?). So yeah this flick is cutesy at times. Yeah it ends with a level of uncertainty (talking about cinema makes way for interpretation you know). Yeah it starts off sort of predictable. Yeah it has some nitwit, supporting characters and yes, there’s a cringe-worthy boner gag (don’t ask). But look closer and stick around for the full two hours (despite what other critics thought, the overlength didn’t bother me). There’s something deeper than what was advertised in the trailer. Here’s a hint and spoiler alert (warning): The husband of Hathaway’s persona (Matt Ostin played by Anders Holm), isn’t much of a shade and doesn’t hold the screen until his revelatory stance hits you up in the third act. Talk about a plot diversion in a so-called, mawkish comedy.

    Shot near the perky side of Brooklyn, New York and featuring an email heist referencing caricatures from Ocean’s Eleven, The Intern is a romcom without the “rom”, a centerpiece sledgehammering facets of old age (you could also throw in older people’s spar with newer technology). The story starts off without a struggle or conflict before later kicking into high gear. You have Ben Whittaker (De Niro), a widower who just wants some higher form of human interaction. He’s retired, he’s traveled the world, he hangs out at Starbucks, and when walking down the street, he gets hit on by weird women (Linda Lavin from the TV show Alice, who’d thunk it). Sadly, this is not enough for him. The solution: He signs up for a community outreach program in which seniors intern for thirtysomething boss, Jules Ostin (Hathaway). Ostin owns a Internet fashion company, built from the ground up. She’s initially reserved, conservative, and off-putting. And her first impression of Ben is that he’s too observant not to mention a little invading. Then things change. As time marches on, De Niro’s Ben and Hathaway’s Jules form a wonderful kinship. They eventually turn into best friends. Refreshingly, it was great to see two Oscar winners thrive at the top of their game. When they’re on screen (together or separate), “Intern” is a real winner. When they aren’t in frame (which hardly ever happens), the material is sadly, a little sluggish and kind of hackneyed.

    Anyway, if you’ve recently watched The Internship (2013), you’ll somewhat be reminded of The Intern. Both films start off similar yet the latter ascends to something much greater. Bottom line: Chalk up another round of effective, sentimental goo courtesy of the veritable Nancy Meyers. I’m gonna go with a rating of 3 and a half stars on this one.

    Of note: De Niro’s Ben Whitaker has a need to fill a void in his life. He’s retired with money yet is bored. That’s why he takes on the task of working in e-commerce territory. De Niro the actor, well he seems to be filling that same void (Bobby’s rich but still likes to appear in three to four movies a year). With endeavors like Grudge Match, Last Vegas, New Year’s Eve, and 2013’s Killing Season, he hasn’t been too picky about his projects. The Intern thankfully, reverses this trend. Mucho “De Niro” justified!

    Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • In The Intern Nancy Meyers engagingly blends the old and new in terms of cinema, technology and feminism.
    Hero Ben is a feminist from the outset because his late wife Molly was a middle school principal, i.e., a woman who combined success in family and in administration. So Ben appreciates the old feminism as well as the new that he sees in Jules (a man’s name feminized by its homonym Jewels). As Jules notes, “It’s 2015, are we really still critical of working moms?” Well, yeah, so Ben has to teach the other playground Moms the pride they should take in Jules’s success. In business Ben unpacks his glass case, clock, calculator, pens, all superannuated — before launching into the computer world. He makes friends in the flesh as well as on Facebook. However new he may be to new tech, his old savvy in business, style and human relations proves a boon to the others. One young guy buys a classic briefcase on eBay.
    Robert De Niro is an affable Old Man in the New Age spirit. He actually weeps a bit, sentimental mush that he admits to being. The established old geezer occupies the same role in the casting as his character does in the plot — he’s the man of experience and wisdom who provides a model for the young bloods.
    De Niro could be on the list of old actors that Jules cites as the lost generation of Men: Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson. The film clip of Gene Kelly evokes an even earlier generation of softer, romantic men, suggesting the cycle of changing styles in film manhood. De Niro even plays against his own persona, when he serves as Jules’s driver and when, before his interview, he rehearses his looks in the mirror. Shades of “You talkin’ to me?” The heist scene is described as an Ocean’s 11 play but it also harkens back to De Niro’s Scorsese gangster period.
    As Jules, Anne Hathaway exercises her own reputation as a difficult person to work with. Her boss character here is a promotion from the harried gofer she played in The Devil Wears Prada. She’s warmer and more effective than the earlier Meryl Streep character.
    Jules’s drunken bar speech is central: as girls have grown into women on the American social landscape men have reverted to boys. Her husband is as sloppy, effete and juvenile as Ben’s workmates. The husband had a brilliant career ahead of him, prioritized Jules’s to become a stay-at-home father, then slips into the tired old cliche of adulterer.
    The film is sensible in playing a 70-year-old as a sane, capable person, even still capable of having a sex life. Ben’s affair with Fiona is played with taste and discretion. Some might add “hope.” The film’s one weak spot is its treatment of the shorter, homelier, much more wrinkled woman who pursues Ben and gives him the finger when she sees him with Fiona. Both in script and direction Meyers shows such sensitivity and grace in this film that it’s disappointing to see her lapse here into the cliche comedy of the predatory crone. Rene Russo gives Fiona a dignity and attractiveness that might have also been accorded the other woman. Instead Meyers went for the cheap laugh — in an otherwise more serious work.

  • Very rarely do I want a film to be a good hour or two longer, I could spend a whole season and more with Ben and Jules. On the surface it looks like this is going to be an odd romcom vehicle for Hathaway and Dr Niro, but don’t let that notion put you off, mainly because it isn’t really a romcom, yes there are romances in the film, and this really isn’t a spoiler, but ultimately it’s a film about a man and woman becoming friends, which is kind of a rare thing in a big budget Hollywood film.

    Like many others, I find something kind of annoying about Anne Hathaway, but this was by far my favorite performance from her, I actually started to really like her in this, she was cast perfectly, as was De Niro, the film is a nice reminder of just how strong a character actor he can be and why he’s regarded as the best, and Myers has probably created literally the most like-able character ever with Ben, if you don’t fall in love with him, then you’re a straight up monster.

    For me The Intern is a near perfect film, I give it an 8/10. Yes it may not be groundbreaking, but in some ways the film is, it eschews the typical expectations from a big budget film like this, and I think only someone like Myers is in a position to do a film like this. At the end of the day, it’s literally what a feel good film is, you like all the characters, there isn’t a typical antagonist, at least not in human form.

    The only real criticism I can give is the casting of Anders Holm, who is a fine dramatic and comedic actor, that anyone who watches Workaholics will adore, but something just didn’t feel right with his casting here, maybe it’s just that I don’t buy him and Anne Hathaway together, despite the fact he kind of looks like her real life husband. It’s a slight mis-step to me, and maybe he wasn’t the first choice, maybe he got the role after Adam Devine got cast, or vice versa. But it’s a very small criticism, because he does the role well, and it hardly detracts from the film as a whole.

    Get a bottle of wine, and enjoy!

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