Robert De Niro’s Comedic Roles, Ranked

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Intern’ review: Robert De Niro, take a letter.

It’s probable that in my unbridled disdain for the films of Nancy Meyers — including What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, and It’s Complicated — I might have overlooked something. In the middle of an interview, the 32-year-old actress, suddenly noticed Carey was near her and said that she was freaking out as the singer was arms’ lengths away at that moment, US Weekly reports. I admit that the marketing of The Intern made me want to wrap several cashmere sweaters around my head and hide away in a multimillion-dollar brownstone until the movie disappeared from theaters.The Intern review: The only time the movie shows some originality is when Ben leads three other staff members to break into Jules’s mother’s home to delete a mail from her mother’s inbox that she sent unintentionally.

The two trailers convinced me that this Nancy Meyers movie about a wealthy 70-year-old retiree who, in the least plausible premise of the year, takes a job as an intern for a thirtysomething female startup founder would be the cinematic equivalent of a garbage truck hurtling into a tanker of high-fructose corn syrup. So he signs up for an internet company’s “senior intern” program, which puts older people to work at the same slave wages (or non-wages) as recent college grads. Add to that Robert De Niro’s effortless portrayal of a septuagenarian intern and Anne Hathaway’s realistic acting as the founder of a successful startup who is struggling to cope with success, and you have two hours of laughs, tears and one of the best on-screen chemistries I have seen in a while.

Also to the movie’s credit, the film co-stars Anne Hathaway as the company’s founder, a very bright woman with a stay-at-home husband and the calmly held belief (which is also Meyers’) that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In a nutshell, The Intern is the story of retired widower, Ben Whittaker (De Niro), who loved his active life before retirement, becoming an intern at a wildly successful startup and the camaraderie he develops with everyone there, particularly the founder, Jules Ostin (Hathaway).

Congeniality” Ben (Robert De Niro) hitting it off with his new co-workers, while ice queen Jules (Anne Hathaway) ignores underlings and bristles at criticism. The film’s tagline—“Experience never gets old”—created the impression that the plot would have Ben swooping in to rescue Jules from her own incompetence and ignorance by providing the kind of business expertise that only old white men in suits possess. He’s playing a symbol, an old-fashioned fellow who’s there to teach all the wimpy millennial guys what a real man is supposed to be, providing lessons in dating, deportment and haberdashery. Also, becoming a stand-in dad for Hathaway’s character, giving her straight-talk advice on her marriage, providing common-sense guidance on her business, warning her when she drinks too much and getting her out of at least one embarrassing personal scrape. Whether it is Ostin’s insecurities about hiring a CEO for the company she started (to keep venture capitalists happy, of course) or her guilt about being a working mother, the script does not find the need to get loud.

You see, Meyers’ real point is that while women like Hathaway’s character have taken on new responsibility and maturity, the men their age have regressed into perpetual boyhoodie, high-fiving dudes and playing Minecraft. That doesn’t mean it’s a great film by any means, nor does it honestly grapple with the questions about work-life balance that its characters are always having heart-to-hearts about. Perhaps to dilute the outlandishness of its central premise—a 70-something man interning for a 30-something new age-y boss—the film immediately serves up a slew of familiar clichés. But nobody does visually pleasing, occasionally funny escapist entertainment about goodhearted rich people trying their best to do the right thing better than Nancy Meyers.

Clearly, Nancy Meyers, the filmmaker with an eye for laying out the unblemished life, has no idea of a) how start-ups work; b) how marriages function; c) how kindergarten schools operate; and d) that interns are just that — interns — doing the work no one else will, even if one day De Niro himself walked into the office. The Intern doesn’t have a plot so much as plots—its screenplay, also by Meyers, is a series of vignettes that would feel right at home on an ABC Family dramedy. Except the film doesn’t really portray Hathaway’s character as that much more mature than the bros around her – she’s flighty, disorganized, given to public tears.

We first meet Ben Whittaker, a retired executive who’s filled his days learning yoga, gardening, and Mandarin since his wife died, but misses the structure provided by work. And De Niro’s character never becomes a real character – he remains a two-dimensional role model, a cardboard cutout without sharp edges or dark shadows. (Oh, and interestingly even purportedly progressive Meyers accepts the usual Hollywood ageism – while De Niro, 72, shrinks in comic horror from fellow septuagenarian Linda Lavin, he’s allowed to have blissfully sexy and uncomplicated dates with Rene Russo, 61.) This is, perhaps, investing a Meyers comedy with too much weight; traditionally, her pictures are made to give aging stars (and audiences) a bit of romance and a few laughs, with lots of scenes in places where every kitchen has a Viking stove and every neighborhood is white and upper-class. The company goes by the name ‘About The Fit’, and doesn’t seem to have anything to set it apart from other online clothes retailers except for its very, very attractive owner-founder in the form of Jules. In case that wasn’t enough, you also get the overworked, unconfident assistant, the painfully adorable kid, and the mother who doesn’t love her ambitious daughter enough. When he sees a flier outside a Park Slope grocery store advertising a senior internship program at an online apparel store called About the Fit, he asks his 9-year-old grandson how to use a USB connector, records a video résumé, and sends it in.

Hathaway tries very hard; she’s always had incredibly easy access to her emotions, and she has a tearful scene with De Niro that’s remarkably real and in the moment. Apart from her great clothes, hair, and flair for the job, she also cycles around the workplace. “To save time,” a staffer whispers into Ben’s ears. A mild-mannered, chivalrous go-getter with business experience, Ben naturally gets the job (along with a handful of other senior citizens who are shown once and then disappear). And De Niro is clearly enjoying playing an uncomplicated good guy for a change, the nonjudgmental father figure always there to lend a hand or a handout.

The cycle lasts all of two scenes, and we go on to spend the better part of the film in an Audi (brazenly advertised) with Jules feverishly typing away at a time into two iPhones and a tablet of some sort. The office space, a light-filled former factory, is furnished with rows of attractive, well-dressed young people, diligently examining fashion photos, writing code, and answering customer service calls. If millennial men are the problem (and it’s arguable that they’re any less mature than a lot of the millennial women surrounding them), then what’s her solution? And, really, given what we have here, that is not surprising. “Stressed entrepreneur” with confused CEO issues, “slightly guilty wife and mother”, “an obsessive boss who sleeps little, eats little”, and who keeps drenching her hands in sanitiser.

Jules is aware of this, and knows she ought to confront Matt, but has been putting it off until she takes a decision on the new CEO she’s being pressured into hiring. When something good happens—like the company getting an unprecedented 2,500 likes on an Instagram post—someone rings a bell and everyone applauds. Instead, Meyers, also the scriptwriter, has several plot contrivances thrown in that end up projecting Jules as a helpless woman needing just an older man’s guidance to tell her she is doing good.

Jules Ostin, the woman Hathaway plays with zero static cling, has a business problem (her investors think the company needs a CEO) that’s giving her a marriage problem (she’s there but not present), which gives her a Nancy Meyers problem (it’s all her fault). Jules often rides her bicycle from one end the loft to the other to save time, but no one yells, snorts Adderall, or neglects his personal hygiene, even though they constantly talk about how sleep-deprived they are. Clearly he has to be as immaculately dressed as Ben (“Why doesn’t anyone tuck anything in anymore?”), and yet the other role model, Jules’s devoted husband, is as “super cas (casual)” as they come at her office.

Jules, who’s assigned to supervise Ben, is initially wary and considers having him transferred to another department, but she soon comes to view him as indispensable. Meyers uses this time to reveal more of Ostisn’s character as one sees her interact with her mother (a disembodied voice over the phone for the entire movie), her husband, daughter and clients.

To the twentysomething kids — played by Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Peter Vack, and Christina Scherer — bopping around the office, he’s like a stegosaurus or someone from Sterling Cooper. Co-worker Jason (Workaholics’ Adam DeVine) accidentally slept with the roommate of the girl he likes; Ben persuades him to apologize to her in person, instead of via text and email. Her Jules is by turns brittle, warm, self-possessed, vulnerable and impulsive, and Hathaway conveys all this without making her performance seem like an acting class.

Jules accidentally sends an email about how awful her mom is to her mom instead of her husband; Ben and his new work friends embark on a (genuinely funny) caper to delete the email from Jules’ mom’s computer before she sees it. The Intern’s central conflict, which simmers on the back burner for most of the movie, doesn’t really have much to do with Ben: It’s Jules’ dilemma.

In one particular scene where Ostin is throwing up after some irresponsible drinking and Whittaker offers her a “hanky” to clean up, the chemistry is evident as he comforts her. In another scene, both are seated on a hotel bed, and while Ostin tries to justify what has happened in her life, Whittaker calmly points out the flaws in her argument as a friendly grandpa would. Ben, who grows closer and closer to Jules and her family throughout the film, plays a supporting role as Jules tries to figure out if she can keep running her company and have the home life she wants.

His role isn’t really that of a business mentor at all—sure, he knows how to read marketing reports, but he’s helpful to Jules primarily as a sounding board, and as a “you go, girl” cheerleader. Everything De Niro does here is perfect — even when, in the movie’s dumbest scene, he commandeers a home break-in with the younger employees for Jules-related reasons that are so Nancy Meyers. If your personal fantasy has always been to see Robert De Niro say things like “I hate to be the feminist here, but you should be able to have a huge career and be who you are,” I’ve got good news. In this later stage of his career, he’s been asked to lean on that “Who farted?” face that he makes. (To watch him is to assume those Fockers movies practically constitute a Dutch oven.) Meyers is the first director in years to send some perfume his way. Some may find the film slow in places, mainly because the narrative needs to build itself to the end, but the film leaves one with that happy feeling and a general sense of satisfaction as the credits roll at the end, with both Whittaker and Ostin in the park practising Tai Chi.

De Niro has rarely been an actor you keep a camera on for a quiet, comedic reaction shot, but she never cuts away from him, and he never disappoints, rolling and darting his eyes, turning his mouth down and up. He was almost as wonderful in that 2009 remake of Italy’s Everybody’s Fine, but the movie itself was cheap and gimmicky and thought that holiday sweaters would be funny on him. There’s a sight gag, for instance, in which the camera holds a close-up of the two alarm clocks Ben sets every night as they ring, then pulls out to show him turn them off fully dressed. But the scene turned into a showcase of Jules’ emotional vulnerability, which Hathaway plays just right: She’s hurting so much that it doesn’t even occur to her (the way it does to Ben) that the situation might read as sexual.

No one could accuse Meyers of realism—The Intern, like her other movies, is a modern-day fairy tale set inside a Pottery Barn catalog—but she’s smarter about sex, and about gender, than most comedy filmmakers. This deliberately uncomfortable moment highlights the fact that audiences—and people in general—still don’t quite know what to make of platonic friendships between men and women, especially older men and younger woman.

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