Friday, October 2, 2015

The Intern Review

We've had a considerable slump in worthwhile movies now that all the summer blockbusters are over and the Autumn lineup hasn't quite arrived. Fortunately, Nancy Meyers's latest film, The Intern (2015), hit theaters. It's not a big movie event that people have been anticipating for months on end, but it has some genuine charm, some interesting insight, and a great cast.
Starting a new job can be a difficult challenge, especially if you're already retired. 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has discovered that retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be. Looking to get back into the game, Ben seizes the opportunity to become a senior intern at an online fashion site. Ben soon becomes popular with his younger co-workers, including Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), the boss and founder of the company. Whittaker's charm, wisdom, and sense of humor help him develop a special bond and growing friendship with Jules, and find what his life has been lacking.
I had praised the Woman in Gold movie for putting together two mismatched actors and how they worked remarkably well together. The lead actors in The Intern were of a similar ilk. Robert De Niro is known for his roles in gangster films. While Anne Hathaway is known for her diversity in different sorts of roles; musicals such as Les Misérables, action film such as The Dark Knight Rises, dramatic comedies such as The Devil Wears Prada, and family films like The Princess Diaries. The two are very different in their careers and achievements, but they work together so very well on screen. Anne and Robert have such an endearing chemistry that their characters are positively delightful together. The unorthodox chemistry in the talented lead actors carries the film much farther than it would have otherwise.
The story here is fairly simplistic. It's more a commentary about relationships, ambition, and having it all. I kept expecting one of Jules' employees to secretly be trying to usurp her position in the company she built, or for an old acquaintance of Ben's to keep him from his internship job, thus damaging the company. But no, there really is no antagonist here to act as a focal point for the problems the characters face. It's really just natural issues and problems that arise from modern life, from a generation gap, to running a company and trying to manage one's personal life. This made the situations more relatable than I expected them to be. At the same time, The Intern has a gentle spirit and is about people who are decent. There's not a lot of conflict, but we root for these characters because we enjoy spending time with them.
The Intern is dialogue heavy, but it is well-written dialogue that makes some interesting commentary about the age gap. It seems that society believes that once a person reaches a certain age their usefulness is essentially over. The Intern challenges that notion to great avail. The character of Ben is positively adorable and remarkably endearing, and he sets an example for the young folks he works for. He is resourceful, well-mannered, observant, supportive, hard working, willing to give fatherly advice, knows when not to, and acts as a indomitable role model. The values he holds and the lessons he imparts are the kinds of things you'd expect to see on The Art of Manliness website. After watching this movie I seriously want to invest in a nice suit and start carrying around a handkerchief. But The Intern is not about a magical perfect grandpa giving out sage advice (though there is more of that than one might expect), the young 20 and 30-somethings have plenty to teach Ben about. In one great bit of character development, Jules is showing Ben how to create a Facebook profile and in so doing they learn a lot about each other. Ben learns more about technology and how some modern ideals are improvements from what they were in his day.
The Intern was a charming movie with some delightful characters and a good quality script. The lack of conflict was abundantly evident and that doesn't lend itself to the type of bold storytelling that will stick with you for years to come, but it has its own charm that makes it re-watchable. With some genuinely insightful dialogue, a generous number of humorous situations, and many small scenes that allow us to get to know and like a half-dozen supporting players, The Intern really grows on you. It has its heart completely in the right place, with not an ounce of cynicism anywhere to be found. This is the kind of movie that doesn't really lose anything if seen on a small screen. While it is a good movie, I think it is worth waiting to see on home video. I'd even get a copy of this on blu-ray when it becomes available, but only after the price goes down.

Can you think of a archetypal father figure in a movie that gives useful, sage advice to those around him? Who is it and what was the movie? Why did you like that character so much? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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