“The Intern” is a Nancy Meyers odd couple / buddy movie about a “senior” intern, played by Robert De Niro, working for Anne Hathaway’s whirlwind of an internet start up boss. Expect jokes like, “This job ages you, which in your case isn’t a good thing,” lots of lifestyle porn and a good dollop of sentimentality.
Hathaway is Jules Ostin, owner operator of About the Fit, a website specializing in upscale women’s clothes. In just eighteen months she has turned it into a going concern, with over two hundred employees and thousands of orders a day. Despite her success—and eighteen-hour work days—the company is growing so quickly her investors want to bring in an experienced CEO to grow the business.
Enter Ben Whittaker, a seventy-year-old widower who applies for a job as senior intern to help pass the time. After a shaky start the pair bond as Jules comes to regard Ben as a calming influence and a bottomless font of advice. De Niro’s back to playing “The Godfather”… but the magical fairy godfather who becomes Uncle Ben to everyone in the office, teaching the boys to be men and Jules to enjoy life.
A mix of slapstick and sentimentality “The Intern” is clearly designed to be a crowd pleaser, the kind of movie that moves along with few speed bumps along the way. But there are speed bumps. Take for example a woefully conceived house break-in scene that must be one of the worst action scenes ever committed to film. Or an infidelity subplot that rears its ugly head in the final third and does little except to raise the dramatic stakes, but it’s clumsy and feels tagged on. How about the film’s murky stance on women having a career and a family?
Juxtaposing Millennials and Baby Boomers should mine a rich vein of comedy and there are a few gags sprinkled throughout “The Intern,” but it feels aimed at an older audience who might find sitcom gags like a young guy walking in on what he thinks is a sex act, but is actually completely innocent. Cue the laugh track.
“The Intern” relies on charm rather than knee slappers. De Niro and Hathaway have good chemistry and can effortlessly bound between mawkish melodrama and comedy. Is this one of De Niro’s more memorable characters? Nope. Ben Whittaker and Travis Bickle will never be mentioned on the same breath but his work here could be considered a companion piece to “Meet the Fockers.”