It’s a shame I can’t open this review of The Intern with a voice over. This seems to be the vogue of setting up films, especially those films that are on a mission to deliver a message or a lesson. The Intern is no different, both in the introducing voiceover and the intention of delivering a message.
The Intern focuses on retired gentlemen Ben (De Niro) who is enjoying his retirement. Or rather, he was. Having attempted a multitude of hobbies and activities, including attending a number of funerals and traveling the world, Ben now finds himself with too much time on his hands. To try and remedy this, Ben decides to apply for a Senior Internship program at a local company. When Ben is successful he finds himself working directly for the big boss, Jules Ostin (Hathaway), a notoriously difficult yet strong lady who has developed her own company from startup to success in 18 months. As Ben learns about Jules and her life, he may be the one to offer her the best advice, despite only being her intern. As Jules faces some big changes, both in her personal life and in her private life, it is Ben she begins to turn to more and more.
This feels very much as if it was designed as a prequel to Devil Wear’s Prada. The character of Jules appears to have some of the same characteristics of Miranda Priestly, only not as well developed. This is not a bad synopsis for a film; however, it is let down by the poor character development for those aspects of Jules’ character. The scripting would have you believe that she is the hard boss that takes some time to get used to, yet this is not portrayed on the screen. Those aspects of her character are barely touched upon. Anne Hathaway still gives a strong and emotional performance as always, and she turns the character from somebody you are supposed to be dubious of into a character that you cannot help but like.
Robert De Niro De Niro puts in a strong performance as Ben and shows that he can play a comedy character as well as anyone else. He is able to elicit laughs as well as promote a sense of calm control over his character, and he and Rene Russo work beautifully together, as do he and Anne Hathaway.
The unfortunate casting comes in the shape of Jules’ husband Matt, played by Anders Holm. Matt is a house husband who looks after their young daughter while Jules goes out and works ridiculous hours to make sure her business is a success. Matt is supposed to be this neglected and troubled husband who misses his wife, but the performance is completely cardboard. There is more depth in a puddle than there is in his performance, and this makes his relationship with both Jules and their daughter hard to believe.
What The Intern provides is a comfortable and easy story with a new take on the dynamics. We are provided with a strong female lead who is successful off her own back, but who is also allowed to feel and to emote without losing that strength and that success, both at home and at work. This does work well; however, some of the circumstances and reactions are less than believable. What is quite refreshing, although not completely original, is the use of an older character to provide the lessons in a role that is primarily filled by somebody younger.
The film puts a lot of time and effort into making sure the audience is aware of traditional sexual stereotypes. The fact that Jules is a strong business woman is mentioned a few too many times, despite it being blatantly obvious from the plot that this is the case. What is admirable and done much better than the ‘strong woman’ plot is the take on ageism. This young and independent business woman gets her strongest life lessons from a 70-year-old intern. They develop this odd yet endearing relationship that is a pleasure to watch unfold, and Ben demonstrates that regardless of age a person can offer a multitude of skills and assets.
The Intern may not be the most dramatic, the most original or the most heart-warming film that has recently been released, but it has heart. It has its comedy moments that are actually funny, and there are emotional scenes that are tear-jerking. The film is the cinematic equivalent of a comfortable Saturday evening with a glass of wine and friends, and everybody needs that once in a while.