From the moment The Intern begins to the moment the end credits roll, you will have a smile on your face. That smile will occasionally be punctuated with laughter (and a few tears). Nancy Meyers’ newest film brings out the best in its stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, and it is a thoughtful examination of growing old, generational differences, and feminism.
Robert De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old retired widower. Filling his days with yoga, coffee shop visits, and other things to keep his mind occupied and to maintain a routine, he finds a flyer advertising an internship program for senior citizens at an online clothing retailer About the Fit. Bright-eyed and instantly likable, Ben wins over everyone in the office, and easily secures one of the intern positions from the pool of, let’s just say, less bright-eyed applicants.
Ben is assigned to assist Jules Ostin (Hathaway), the founder and CEO of the successful startup company. Jules loves her job and cares deeply about her customers (for example, she is introduced taking a support call, doing everything she can to help the client on the other end, before it is revealed that she is actually the company’s CEO). Jules is less than thrilled that Ben is her new assistant, thinking that he will be more of a burden and that she won’t have a lot for him to do. Soon, Ben proves his worth to Jules, and he eventually becomes her driver and gets to know her husband Matt (played by Anders Holm) and her daughter Paige (played by adorable newcomer JoJo Kushner). Ben becomes Jules’ confidant and informal life-coach as she deals with balancing her career with her family, and as she must decide whether to hire a new CEO to help alleviate some of her responsibilities at the company that she built from the ground up.
Robert De Niro continues to chose great roles in the twilight of his career. He has been doing primarily comedy films in the last decade and a half, going all the way back to Analyze This and Meet the Parents, and his performance in The Intern is one of his best in years. De Niro gives so much depth to Ben, as we see a good man who just wants to stay occupied and add value to society. The film opens with Ben’s voice over, which turns out to be his video application for the internship position, as he describes what his life has been like for the past few years since retirement and the passing away of his wife of forty years, and we instantly fall in love with him. De Niro brings a sweetness and a vulnerability to Ben, as well as an incredible strength of character. It is much to his credit that it only takes a moment before we forget we are watching Robert De Niro, as we get lost in the story being told.
Anne Hathaway is terrific, as well. Jules is a very driven character. She loves her company sincerely, but the long hours and her constant attention towards it becomes a strain on her family, particularly her relationship with her husband Matt. Hathaway brings so much to the role. It is clear from the beginning, that although Jules is tough and demanding, it is coming from a deep place of love. The aforementioned scene in which Jules is taking a customer support call (she is desperately trying to help fix an order of bridesmaid dresses that were delivered in the wrong color) illustrates just how much she cares about her company.
One of the primary themes explored in this film is balance, particularly between work-life and home-life. Jules may love her work, but often at the expense of her relationship with her husband. Her husband Matt is a stay-at-home dad, watching over their daughter Paige. This idea (which is hardly a new one) of the mother being the primary bread-winner in a family while the father stays home is handled very well and is examined from multiple angles. Ultimately, the message that there is enough room in your life for all the things that you love shines through.
While The Intern is not going to win any Oscars, it is a breath of fresh air, and is one of Nancy Meyers’ best films to date. De Niro and Hathaway are perfect complements to each other, and the script gracefully deals with its multiple themes. This is the perfect movie to cleanse your palette from a summer full of superhero flicks and stale sequels. It may be somewhat predictable, but The Intern is pure entertainment from beginning to end.