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Review: The Intern (2015)

The Intern (2015)

Directed by: Nancy Meyers

Premise: A retiree (Robert De Niro) joins a senior citizen internship program run through an internet startup business and he assists the company’s young founder (Anne Hathaway).

What Works: The first half of The Intern plays well and is generally pleasant in the way that Nancy Meyers’ films tend to be. The writer and director of movies like Father of the Bride, It’s Complicated, and Something’s Gotta Give, Meyers’ work concentrates on the love lives of parental figures and especially members of the Baby Boomer generation. This movie focuses on an aged widower who finds retirement to be purposeless and unsatisfying. Robert De Niro is generally known for his roles as tough guys but in The Intern he is cast against type and he convincingly plays a vulnerable but smart older man. De Niro is quite good in the part and the pride that the character takes in his work is infectious. In the course of his internship, De Niro’s character is paired with the much younger founder of the company played by Anne Hathaway. The relationship between De Niro and Hathaway’s characters is agreeable throughout the first half of the movie as are many of the scenes in which he interacts with his Millennial coworkers and contrasts their styles and values. The movie has some apt but lighthearted criticism of the younger crowd, particularly young men, regarding their work ethic and social ineptitude. The Intern was made by and for an older audience who will probably find themselves nodding in agreement with the film’s critiques of the Millennial generation and snickering along knowingly with the age-related gags.

What Doesn’t: The Intern is very pleasant in its first half and the movie sets up agreeable characters in a situation that is ripe for comedy. The trouble is that the movie never follows through on its premise and the film gradually degrades over the course of its second hour. The Intern runs just over two hours and there is no reason for it to be that long. After the story positions its characters very little actually happens in the movie. The older man is assigned to the younger woman and he assists her on various tasks but he never really does anything meaningful. The story is utterly directionless. It isn’t moving toward a discernable conclusion and many of the scenes in this movie could be rearranged in any order without making a difference to the outcome of the story. The shapelessness of The Intern is most obvious in the many scenes of De Niro sitting at his intern desk, gabbing with his younger coworkers, and waiting to be given something to do. The movie has a strange regard for work. De Niro seems a little too happy about everything. It is revealed late in the movie that the building that now houses this internet startup was once the very office that he worked in for forty years. One would think that going from a lucrative and respected position to an internship would be frustrating or even demeaning but De Niro’s character is just happy to have a purpose. The film idealizes his work ethic a bit too much. Working hard is a fine thing but The Intern lionizes a lifestyle in which work takes precedence above all other things including family and friends. The Intern goes from a mediocre comedy to something more pernicious in its final movement. The filmmakers believe they are making a feminist movie and both De Niro and Hathaway’s characters speak in feminist platitudes. But The Intern frequently undercuts its feminist message. The young men in the movie are dolts but the women are emotional wrecks and the movie decries the double standards directed toward working women while slinging them at Hathaway’s character. Worst is the ending in which the young CEO and the movie are reduced to sentimental mush. 

Bottom Line: The chemistry between Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway is fun to watch so it’s disappointing that these actors are trapped in a movie that is so shallow and disingenuous. The Intern is intended to be lighthearted fun—and for a while it is—but in the end the film’s charms turn sour.

Episode: N/A (October 4, 2015)