Philadelphia-raised writer-director Nancy Meyers returns with ‘The Intern’

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Intern’ review: The plot is predictable but breezy.

NEW YORK — In “The Intern” Anne Hathaway is a go-getting e-commerce winner, a mother, wife and boss who discovers the value of having an older, more experienced person to vent to, share with and question. That person is her 70-year-old intern Ben (Robert De Niro) and their often comic collision and ultimate understanding is a large part of what makes “The Intern” hum.

Presumably the veteran dramatic actor has a few true friends who can whisper the word “legacy” in his ear in more kindly tones than the critics ever do. It marginalizes what she does, and how she has, from “The Parent Trap” to “It’s Complicated,” created her own lovely and implausible cottage industry of movies that are, for the most part, exceedingly pleasant to watch.

Hathaway, 32, found playing a woman as complex as Jules pretty educational. “What’s great is how Nancy (Meyers, the writer/director) made observations about how old school meets the new world, and each is made better because of the other. “Jules is a private person. His response to that judgment is surely evident in his decision to play the part of a 70-year-old retiree who takes an internship with an online fashion retailer because he is bored stiff. And while it attempts to explore the unlikely relationship that blooms between a formidable female boss Jules Ostin (Hathaway) and senior ‘intern’ Ben Whittaker (God bless DeNiro), it takes a few unscheduled stops at feminist lane and relationship square. She’s so dedicated to her company, she dreads the idea that anything in her personal life could impact her ability to do her job and keep the company going. “So she doesn’t really have anyone to confide in — and then she meets Ben and their friendship develops, and she winds up opening up to him and taking his advice because she really, really respects him. But they also make him perfect, as he and his boss, About the Fit founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), discover in the new comedy from writer-director Nancy Meyers.

Meyers is one of the more retro writer-directors working today. “The Intern,” her first film in six years, is a curious case, melding together those modern retro sensibilities in a way that even further distances her work from reality. And it’s really excellent advice.” “Up till now I’ve made a lot of my movies from a place of insecurity and neuroses and self-doubt, and when we started,” Hathaway said at the Crosby Street Hotel, “Nancy and I saw the character in two different ways. “I had this moment where I was, ‘Oh, we see it different ways. Ben is a retired Brooklyn widower and grandfather, who was happily married for 42 years and gainfully employed by a company that published now-defunct telephone books. Am I going to feel so uncomfortable the entire time if I’m not following my instincts?’ “So, it became this wonderful exercise in being guided, which is very new for me.

Jules and Ben “meet cute” when he is hired as her “senior” intern, and while she rejects his help at first, it’s obvious Jules needs Ben because her life, including her marriage to stay-at-home father and elaborately mop-headed husband Matt (Anders Holm) is in danger of falling apart. He is assigned to the startup founder who initially tells him, “I’m not going to have a lot for you to do.” Ben bides his time, dispenses some advice to the 20-something interns and takes just enough initiative without overstepping his bounds. As such it’s only mildly entertaining, never funny enough nor smart enough to summarize the cultural moment in the manner of a Working Girl or The Social Network.

He is the wise fatherfigure who slowly finagles his way into her life and warms up to the gaggle of side characters, including Ostin’s stay-at-home husband Matt (Holm) and adorable daughter. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, its formulaic script, uneven dialogue and sentimentality place it right alongside her last effort, It’s Complicated, as a movie that doesn’t do justice to an invigorating premise. With only the most polite issues peppering the plot, it’s less a study of generational conflict and more of a series of loosely connected events about a guardian angel sent out of retirement to tell Anne Hathaway that she really can have it all.

It even asks if the whole mentality of “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” back when it was still daughter and not child, somehow gave boys the short shrift. And so, Meyers leads us down a wide and clearly signposted road with more-or-less amusing jokes about the generational differences enlivening the story of Jules’s inevitable change of heart about Ben. In the past year and a half, she has built an insanely successful clothing business from the ground up and is now juggling a kid, her relationship with her stay-at-home husband, and a board of directors who want to replace her with a more seasoned CEO. There is also token lip service to the cause of working women, but one appreciates that the writer (also Meyers) understands that not everything needs to be tied up with a neat bow tie.

Meyers gets mileage out of “old-school” Ben, who wears tailored suits and ties and carries a calculator, dumb phone and Cross pens in his vintage leather attache case, and the young techie expert interns who dress the way they did when they were 10 years old. There are some smart things in Meyers’s script: Ben begins a romance with the office massage therapist (Rene Russo), thereby removing any yuck factor from his growing friendship with his much younger, female boss. Some of the witticisms about seniors’ computer literacy or millennials’ office manners are clever enough, but the larger comedy never gathers much speed.

Ben keeps a tidy bedroom and enviable walk-in closet in the smaller brownstone he once shared with his wife. “The Intern” is not the best movie ever directed by Ms. Indeed, the movie almost winds up in a ditch when Ben and some young colleagues go off on a caper, breaking into a house to retrieve a wayward e-mail and abandoning the film’s key relationship at the curb. Meyers, whose credits include “It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday” and “Something’s Gotta Give.” But it not only presents strong or interesting female characters, in Ms.

De Niro is a good comedian if not a great one, but Ben is portrayed as so unfailingly sunny and helpful that the gentlemanly act begins to tire before the film is half-over. If Meyers isn’t going to give Hathaway’s character any room to play screwball – the comic energy that has fuelled workplace movies since Hollywood’s golden age and that Hathaway herself provided back when she was playing the intern in The Devil Wears Prada – at least the actress should be offered more space to try out her best obnoxious. In later scenes, Meyer includes her most interesting reflections about professionally successful women, and both Hathaway and De Niro do some nice work here, deftly handling the increasing (but perfectly chaste) intimacy between their characters. The Intern might have a few things to say about work, but mainly it’s the kind of comedy you can rent some Saturday night, secure in the knowledge that if you fall asleep in the third act, a more alert friend can summarize its conclusions in a matter of seconds.

It can be cloying at times, but the disconnected timelessness of it all is all the more reason for Meyers to keep doing her own thing as long as she can.

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