De Niro, Hathaway put mature ‘seasoning’ on workplace rom-com
Starring Robert De Niro & Anne Hathaway
Directed by Nancy Meyers
“Love and work, work and love, that’s all there is,” says Ben (Robert De Niro), paraphrasing Sigmund Freud in the opening moments of The Intern.
Ben’s a 70-year-old retiree, adrift in Brooklyn after the death of his wife of 40-some years. He longs for purpose and connection that Mandarin Chinese lessons, tai chi in the park and morning treks to Starbucks can’t provide. When he sees an ad for a “Senior Intern Program” at a hip new e-commerce clothing company, he thinks it could be just the thing to bring his decades of experience, loyalty and passion for productivity back into play.
After a humorous round of interviews with the start-up company’s young “talent acquisition” team, Ben gets the job, assigned directly to the busy-bee founder and president, Jules (Anne Hathaway), a mile-a-minute micromanager who barely has time to even notice him.
How long will it take for the geriatric guru to go from invisible to indispensible?
Writer-director Nancy Meyers is best known for the frisky romantic comedies Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated and The Parent Trap. There’s both romance and comedy in The Intern—there’s no mistaking the soft, rounded edges of Meyers’ humor and the sunny storybook optimism of her feel-good style. But still, it’s not what you might think.
Ben doesn’t fall—at least romantically—for Jules. They both grow ever closer in their relationship, and even end up literally “in bed” together, but it’s all business, building a genuine friendship.
De Niro, a double Oscar winner, is well known for playing tough, so it’s always great fun to see him working whimsical. But shades of some of his former, heavier performances are always around, lurking—Ben has a “mirror” moment that might be seen a silent spoof of “You talkin’ to me?!” from Taxi Driver, and a comedic house break-in feels like it might morph into Goodfellas parody, if only there were a body in the trunk and a walk-on by Joe Pesci.
Hathaway, 32, another Oscar winner, plays Jules with sensitivity for her character’s strengths as well as her struggles—which include a frazzled home life with her husband (Anders Holm, from TV’s Workaholics) and their precocious young daughter (JoJo Kushner), and conflict about how her company has grown so much it may need to bring in a CEO, someone above her, to run things.
Renee Russo plays a frisky “older” staff masseuse who rubs Ben the right way, and three younger interns (Jason Orley, Zach Pearlman and Adam DeVine, also from Workaholics, as well as the Pitch Perfect movies) form male bonds with their much older, more stylish, infinitely wiser coworker.
The Intern won’t win any awards. But for some hearty laughs and touching cross-generational life lessons from a couple of “old pros,” it’ll make for a decent date night, especially with audiences who often search in vain for movies of any kind—particularly comedies—seasoned for more “mature” tastes.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine