“There’s a hole in my life and I need to fill it.”
Just like our main character here, Jules (Anne Hathaway), the young spearhead of a blossoming internet fashion startup, The Intern is a brand that either fits you or doesn’t. Director Nancy Meyers has a crowd who buy it, people who try this story on and look at themselves through the lives of these characters and decide that it suits them. Others will take their business elsewhere. What can I say; sometimes we just like what we like. That certainly is the case with The Intern. It’s downy soft, problematically clichéd at points, a little overwrought at others. The script has cavernous holes a mile wide. But Meyers has built for us a Bridge over the River Why. When the whys and the questions go unanswered or unveil themselves too soon we continue to press on and take another step. It may not inspire the hope it desires to, but it sure impassions perseverance.
Jules has a lot on her plate, and it’s not take-out. She hardly eats, barely sleeps, works like an ant. Her booming site has grown faster than anticipated and there’s fear it will get too big too fast. Investors suggest bringing in an experienced CEO to help lessen the load. So while she’s too busy to think and to breathe, through her Windexed office doors walks senior citizen Ben (Robert De Niro). Ben has exhausted his options for conquering his life as a widowed retiree. A flyer for a Senior Intern program with the company grabs his attention, and through plot points that don’t really matter, Ben becomes Jules’ personal intern. These two characters are underwritten to say the least. Ben is wise and affirmative, saying, “I agree” and “yeah, I do” enough it becomes rote. Jules is said to be an impossibly difficult and tough as nails boss to work with when really she is anything but. Thankfully we have Hathaway and De Niro, whose talent give shades which these characters have never seen. Especially Hathaway, drawing from her lived in circumstances mirroring some of the proceedings. Without them it would have been a pretty flat time at the movies.
The Intern is reliant on stereotypical behavior rather than personalized and individual character traits. Plus, early on, much of the humor is fully fledged ageism, something my senior discount audience members surprisingly took little offense at. Maybe Meyers knows that, though. This film does too much in terms of drawing laughs or panhandling for emotional connectivity. Scenes can be the outrageous sight gags or the big dramatic climaxes with a long-held shot, practically telling us to laugh or to cry when it wants. It’s forceful. Because of this, or maybe in spite of it all, the best moments are the little ones in between. Nuanced looks and eyes that tell us more than this overbearing script could with an avalanche of words. It’s been said that the little moments are what matter most because they are the foundation and the approximation of all the big ones. Try to forget the bad and the trite with this story and hold on to the sincerity living between the breaks of crashing waves…it’s worth your while.
Meyers’ film may not be spectacular, and yet, I enjoyed it. We all have the longing to be needed; it’s a core piece of what makes us human. Being wanted is not a weakness either. More than anything, I’d say it’s a validation or a negation of our own hand-drawn portrait of self-worth. The Intern tends to be like that in a lot of ways. A painting with an accidental smudge here and there. The flaws don’t detract from the simple beauty of such a naturalistic theme, which is to never stop living. Movies can be convenient and contrived and lacking a coda. All three of those fit this film. And still, with the strength of the cast and its two leads, the movie never halts or tests our patience. When I heard the following quote in the darkness of my theater, I thought a lightbulb flicked in my head. I thought that the words could and should be read as negative. And I was wrong. The Intern proves its point, through its ups and downs, by always being so self-evident. So clearly visible. In our fiercely cynical culture, we’d all be better off to watch more movies like this. Kindness is contagious.
“God, I wish your expressions weren’t so transparent.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5