The Intern (2015)
Director: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Robert De Niro; Anne Hathaway.
Plot: 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 latest film from Parent Trap (1998), What Women Want (2002) and The Holiday (2006) writer-director Nancy Meyers is a feel-good film that seems to consciously avoid stereotyping both youthful women and ageing men, yet fails to truly fulfil its obligation to entertain or intrigue.
One of the biggest upsides to The Intern was undoubtedly the cast. Anne Hathaway was her usually glowing self in a role that was, in many ways, an evolution of her role in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). As a fashion executive for her own successful start-up business from which she sells clothing online, Hathaway does a pleasant job of being an interesting and observable leading woman whose tough outer casing is unraveled by her elderly intern who comes to notice that she is slowly losing control in all aspects of her life. Challenged not only by her diminishing power but also the responsibility she feels towards her employees, herself, and even her gender, Hathaways’ Jules is a typically identifiable character for women in their 20s and 30s without being a caricature of the strong independent woman that many films of the same type often stride towards. In opposition, De Niro’s elderly intern Ben is presented mostly as the typical elderly male, though it is worth noting that he’s not presented as a desperately lonely old man, nor a sexist or homophobic character living for the past, like could have been the case. Instead, the ‘typical’ aspects of his character come to complete the needs of his co-star’s character as it is his experience with situations and his knowledge through such experiences that separate him from the other interns and ultimately win the appreciation of his boss. De Niro himself was also clearly invested in the role, providing a loveable character in an enjoyable performance that leaves you wishing for more of Ben by the film’s end.
It was, in fact, the apparent lack of development for De Niro’s character that was one of the largest negatives of the film. Ben, of whom we are introduced to in the opening moments through a voiceover and is therefore the assumed central protagonist, seems to fall to the needs and wants of Jules as the movie goes on, making the character an identifiable side-show by the movie’s conclusion as opposed to the key character. This elongates the plot, making the film feel drawn out as the buck is passed from Ben to Jules as the story develops, ensuring that the audience’s investment in these characters is also lost and-or confused. This creates further problems as the film comes to an end as Jules is awarded a narrative conclusion despite her issues and problems developing as the film goes on as opposed to being presented to us from the off, as was the case with the underdeveloped Ben. For this reason, we are left wanting more of De Niro and less of Hathaway, making The Intern seem more like it shoe-horned a young woman into the film just to search for the profits that a younger audience could bring.
Visually, The Intern was all you’d expect from a film of its genre. It was technically sound without being challenging and-or high art, and was produced to a high standard without standing out as being specifically worth a watch for any of its technical aspects. Similarly, the supporting cast was mediocre, with particular characters connecting as adorable without ever truly being interesting, multi-dimensional or worthwhile investments. Where The Intern excelled was in its handling of issues surrounding age, and in its comedy, the latter of which was particularly enjoyable despite being caught in only brief glimpses throughout the film. However, this particular Nancy Meyers comedrama failed to maintain attention through a sloppy storyline development and its seeming lack of focus. For these reasons, The Intern gets a mediocre…