From the mind that brought us The Holiday, Li-Lo’s The Parent Trap, The Father of the Bride series, Private Benjamin, and Baby Boom comes another impossibly adorable film dedicated to the lives of affluent white people. Nancy Meyers has created a world in which lovely, almost magical events are not only possible, but commonplace. Her latest film The Intern keeps in line with her usual tropes.
Starring Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, and most of the guys from Workaholics, the story centers on start-up Queen-Bee Jules and her brand new senior intern Ben (De Niro). Not one for beating around the bush, Meyers sets up the story quickly, explaining Ben’s retirement, the loss of his wife, and the boredom he’s facing now that he has nothing to wake up for in the morning. The quick transition into his new life is smart. He sees a flyer set up next to his favorite store detailing a senior intern program, an effort to include the senior community as part of an outreach initiative. He’s quickly hired after talking to a barrage of millennial internet workers, all of whom were totally definitely like, in love with Ben. Two other senior interns are chosen, only one of which we ever see again in the movie. Ben is assigned Jules as his mentor, but she’s hesitant; old people just aren’t her thing.
The theme of “old people being useful” is one that runs clean throughout many of Meyer’s movies. In Ben’s case he serves as the wise owl for Jules’ spry chicken, nodding knowingly each time she makes a big decision. There’s no twists, no surprises, just a cute little story about a man who had lost his purpose, finding it again. De Niro basically makes anything these days, and The Intern is no exception, but he makes it work. Charming and nubile, the 72 year old barely needs to act to be the most impressive talent on screen. His comradery with his fellow interns (all aged 21-30) is sweet, he acts as a father figure and role model to anyone who comes in contact with him. He even manages to win over the reticent Jules who (almost) immediately trusts him with information on her company that she doesn’t let her own assistant be a part of.
The supporting cast is hard to take in at first. Living in this digital generation is surreal, and watching Jules onscreen answering two separate phones and skyping on her iPad in the Wi-Fi enabled car feels like satire until you remember your tablet, laptop, and $500 cell phone literally burning a hole in your pocket. Her staff is obsessed with Tweeting, texting, and avoiding eye contact. Is this what we’ve become? Digital zombies? Ben quickly jumps the generational gap, initially feeling out of place with his vintage briefcase and flip phone. By day two of his internship he’s already checking email, and making friends. He quickly becomes a trendsetter, embedding himself into everyone’s lives for the better. He’s even rewarded a love interest in the form of Rene Russo, because it isn’t a Meyers film until two seniors are bumping uglies in the parking lot.
Criticism aside, De Niro and Hathaway’s relationship is genuine and heartfelt. The two have a chemistry on screen that’s comparable to that of Harold and Maude (minus the romance). Ben teaches Jules about herself just by being himself. At one point, he even points out that she needs him, whether or not she wants to admit it. Jules is headstrong, balancing a family with her work life not seamlessly, but efficiently. Anders Holm (Workaholics) plays Jules’ “house husband”, a move Ben finds endearing. He is old school, after all. De Niro never plays his character surprised at Jules’ success, on the contrary, he admires it. He is aware of the barriers she would have had to overcome in order to be where she is, but we’re not burdened with self-pity or righteousness. She is simply a badass, and everyone knows it.
If you’re looking for meaning, or complication, stay away from The Intern. If you’re interested in a reverse coming of age tale with feminist undertones and the familiar Meyers niceties, you’re in luck. Life in Meyers’ universe is easy, if you open your heart you’ll be able to accomplish all manner of things! Try not to let the fact that minorities aren’t really her thing bother you (that’s a whole other can of worms), at least she made something a little different this time.
The Intern is in theaters now.