“The Intern” Movie Review

     The themes in Nancy Meyers’ new film “The Intern” are similar to those she has explored in many of her other films, but she does so here in a completely different and satisfying way.  Her previous works are quite well known.  So much so that her films have established a sort of following after hits such as “What Women Want” (2000), “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003), and “It’s Complicated” (2009) successfully connected with the mature adult crowd with their snappy combination of sharp dialogue and comedic situational plots involving older actors.  “The Intern” follows along much of the same path, but delivers the goods this time by way of cross generational appeal.  In other words, there’s something in the film for people of all ages to cheer for.

     The story opens with a familiar face.  Robert De Niro plays Ben, a 70 year old widower and retiree who wakes up each morning trying to figure out new ways to keep himself busy.  He tells us he has tried it all.  Everything from movies to gardening.  And yet, something is missing.  We know he misses his wife dearly after her unexpected passing three years earlier.  What’s interesting about Ben is how he finds himself feeling as though he’s obsolete in the world, unneeded and unwanted.  And to add to the irony, he tells us he spent nearly 40 years working as one of the leaders of a company that printed phone books in Brooklyn.  Can you imagine how “obsolete” you would feel if your life’s work is also a thing of the past?  This becomes a stark reality when one of his new co-workers asks him “Wouldn’t you just look up the number on Google?”

     Taking advantage of a newly formed senior internship program at an up and coming start up called About The Fit, a company that runs a successful fashion clothing website, Ben is hired as an assistant to Jules (Anne Hathaway), the company’s founder and CEO.  The initial scenes are what you’d expect in a Meyers film, with the beautiful brownstone homes owned by nearly all of the main characters and the furnishings seemingly right out of the last Pottery Barn catalog, along with a glossy, modern, high end workplace bustling with rows of the latest Apple computers.  But, at the same time, the story indicates they have earned it and it’s this unwavering motivation to contribute in some way that has likely led to Ben’s success as a business man to this point.  He just craves to be part of something bigger than himself.  Problem is, he’s stuck in a time where things were done quite differently, which is indicated when he arrives amidst the rest of the new interns who are twenty somethings right out of college looking for their first job.  When one of them, Davis (Zack Pearlman), sits down to his desk, he opens a backpack and pulls out a Lacie portable hard drive, a USB thumb drive, and a smart phone in order to begin his day.  Next to him is Ben, who arrives in a business suit (The office at ATF is really laid back.) and a classic decades old briefcase of which he quips “They don’t make these anymore.”  The contents include a steno pad, a clock, a calculator, and a flip phone.  When he opens the Apple Macbook Pro on the desk, the kid next to him kindly alerts him to push the space bar in order to wake it up.  It’s clear Meyers was looking to establish your typical “fish out of water” scenario.

     And then she veers in a completely different direction.  One in which we see a company struggling with its own success and a CEO who works so many hours to keep it afloat that her family life begins to suffer.  And that’s where Ben comes in.  After a mishap with her normal driver, Ben takes over and is introduced to Jules husband, Matt (Anders Holm), a stay at home dad who cares for their daughter, Paige (JoJo Kushner), which required him to give up his career in order to further Jules’ career.  There are several hints as to what’s to come, but it all boils down to Jules struggling with the balance between the passion she has for her company and the love she has for her family.  There’s plenty to be said for being savvy on the academic side of any given subject, but there really is no better attribute than experience.  On both fronts, it is likely Ben has made the same mistakes and gone through the same pain Jules is confronted with now and the manner in which he counsels her through a difficult time could only have been pulled off by an actor with the kind of skill and prestige De Niro brings to the table in every scene.  The same goes for Hathaway whose undeniable charm and likability has you rooting for her to succeed.  Put simply, she seems like a really nice person.

     Meyers is able to inject plenty of truly funny moments throughout, some of which play on Ben’s age and his new found ability to influence the young people around him.  A welcome addition to the proceedings is Fiona (Rene Russo), the house masseuse, who takes a liking to Ben almost immediately.  Since their interaction is responsible for several of the funniest scenes, I would’ve loved if Meyers had explored their relationship further as their chemistry is undeniable.  That aside, Ben has plenty to do in helping fix Jules’ situation and the result is both hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.  It’s one of those films that automatically gets the “Romantic Comedy” label, but whose stars do not get romantically involved.  Instead, Meyers writes these characters in a way that comes off naturally and unforced. Ben wants to remain relevant and contribute to something just as he always has, and Jules in turn comes to the realization that having him there helps her through difficult times both professionally and personally.  It is a story of how we deal with the many curve balls life throws our way and how meeting someone who has experienced both the highs and lows of these situations can help us hit them out of the park.  GRADE: B