Sunday, September 27, 2015

Movie Review: "The Intern" (2015)

© Warner Bros.

Walking out of The Intern this opening weekend, I didn't expect to have the reaction to it that I did. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, a favorite for comedies featuring an older generation of acting talent, it's been many years since one of her movies has felt relevant or in touch with the times. Perhaps it was the six year break between this and the hollow disaster that was It's Complicated that did it, but Meyers has once again struck emotional gold with this touching and hopeful workplace dramedy.

Years into his retirement, widower and former company man, Benjamin (Robert De Niro), has reached a sticking point: boredom. Hoping to once again find purpose and excitement in his daily life, he answers a job posting looking for interns 'of a certain age'—senior citizens with a lifetime of wisdom—interested in working at an e-commerce start-up. Run by workaholic, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), Ben is paired with the busy CEO, despite her obvious reluctance. It doesn't take long for Ben to make waves at the office full of twenty-somethings needing the calm encouragement of someone who's seen it all, none more-so than Jules, who's struggling to find balance in her busy life.

This isn't a story that relies on erection jokes or shots of old people trying to figure out technology. Okay, so those moments are in there, but they're brief, and usually for the sake of Ben connecting with the myriad of dorky male side characters he's interning alongside. If anything, all of that gives the movie a light-hearted fun and games section that gives Ben the chance to let loose and have a good time. He can't be doling out life lessons every second. No, those important moments are saved for Jules, who needs them most.

There's this facial expression that Robert De Niro makes where he raises his eyebrows and purses his lips in a knowing way (he's doing it in the top picture). We all know it pretty well, at this point. When he was a younger actor playing mobsters and mentally unstable Vietnam vets, it was a frightening look, one that suggested he knew something that you didn't—mainly that he was gonna kill you or your days were numbered. But here, the same look offers something different, an indication that his experiences or insights are about to be shared. There's one moment when Jules even comments on this. He's like an open book, and he is there to impart wisdom, and it is completely and unexpectedly moving.

Hathaway and De Niro have a chemistry as Jules and Ben that is loving and uniquely platonic. There's never confusion about their dynamic, even as their friendship grows and changes. He's not a father figure—neither of them think that. They respect each other as equals. He's quite literally her friend and confidant, one with 40 years more experience whom she learns slowly to trust and rely on, and I fell head over heels in love with them.

De Niro is magical, a true gentleman who gave this role a lot of heart, to the point of making me well up with tears. With him by her side, Hathaway got to let her maturity as an actress shine. You believe her as a mother, a wife, and a CEO, and none of these roles take a back seat to the others. It's a balance I commend Meyers for finding, but it's Hathaway and De Niro that are to be credited for making this movie so much more than its gimmicky premise. Neither of them phoned it in, and no one would have blamed them if they had. I might add in there little JoJo Kushner as Jules' young daughter, Paige, who steals every scene she's in, even with De Niro.

If anything, The Intern is a love letter to the baby-boomer generation through the lens of the modern tech age. Despite some weaker comedy moments meant to poke light fun at how old old people are, it spends more than a little time highlighting their class, strength, and wisdom—and that Gen-Y'ers could learn a thing or two about the benefits of carrying a handkerchief. To say I left the theater wishing my boyfriend wore more suits is an understatement, a superficiality the movie tries to remind us might actually matter in a world where adulting is a tough, scary thing. We need all the help we can get out there, and a nicely tailored jacket could give anyone the confidence to deal with whatever might lie ahead. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Rating: ★★★★ / 5 stars

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