In Hollywood movies, it’s usually the spunky youngster whose precocious insights save the day when the old-timers flounder. The unlikely game-changing hero in Nancy Meyers’ generation-clash comedy The Intern is a senior citizen.
Robert De Niro’s 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker is a former executive for a company that made phone books (how antediluvian can you get?) and he’s finding retirement a humdrum bore. So he applies for a post as a senior intern at uber-successful online fashion start-up About the Fit and gets assigned as an assistant to its overworked founder and boss, Anne Hathaway’s Jules Ostin, a Type-A micro-manager who is conspicuously awkward around older people.
Ben’s worldly wisdom and retro suit-and-tie cool quickly wins over his younger colleagues – including a bumbling trio of man-children played by Zack Pearlman, Adam Devine and Jason Orley – and he soon catches the eye of the firm’s attractive in-house masseuse (Rene Russo), as well. But Jules, currently under pressure from her shareholders to appoint an outsider as CEO and uneasy about the state of her marriage to stay-at-home-dad husband Matt (Anders Holm), is a tougher nut to crack…
The Intern may be set in the up-to-the-minute dot.com world but it’s a defiantly old-fashioned film, the sort of cinematic comfort food that slips down easily with some viewers and proves indigestible to others. For those in the mood, it’s a real treat; comfy, feelgood fare, for sure, but crafted with tender care and good gags by writer-director Meyers (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give).
The performances are another delight. De Niro tones down the mugging that sometimes mars his comic performances and turns on the charm instead, while Hathaway renders her go-getting driven character likeable rather than off-putting. The film may be a cosy fantasy, but the stars’ chemistry ensures its portrayal of an intergenerational friendship is touching and fun.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 121 mins. Director Nancy Meyer.
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