Don’t Expect Much to Work From ‘The Intern’

GameStop, Inc.

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For decades, the involvement of Robert De Niro demanded the attention of cinema lovers. The legendary actor only committed himself to films that pushed the boundaries of artistry and storytelling. As the 20th Century drew to a close, the once-discerning De Niro started to take on roles in films of diminishing quality, and that decline has continued throughout the 21st Century. The latest misfire that De Niro has attached his name to is The Intern, the new comedy from writer-director Nancy Meyers. While The Intern will undoubtedly please the older crowd, Meyers’ film is a total mess that seemingly takes place on some distant planet with only a surface resemblance to Earth.

There’s very little that could be considered imaginative about The Intern. The story, like the jokes, can be seen coming a mile away, and any moment that is completely unpredictable come out of left field and leave one wondering why they were included in the first place. De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a widower that hasn’t found happiness in retirement. When Ben comes across a flyer seeking senior interns, the restless senior seeks out the internship at About the Fit, an internet clothing company founded by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Despite not knowing anything about the internet, Ben gets the internship at the internet-based company. Meanwhile, Jules is under pressure from her investors to find a CEO to guide her burgeoning company into the future. What is at first an awkward relationship soon blossoms into a close friendship as the busy and self-centered working girl is given all sorts of business and personal wisdom from elder intern.

Of course, one can’t ask for any semblance of verisimilitude from a Nancy Meyers film, the auteur behind such bizarre fantasies as What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give, but in many regards The Intern fails because it lacks any wit or imagination beyond the idea that old people aren’t necessarily that good with technology, not exactly asking a lot from the audience on that one. The company at which Ben works is basically the Logan’s Run of businesses – Ben and the other senior interns are the only people at the office that appear to be over 30. But this company also employs an in-house masseuse (played by a woefully wasted Rene Russo), because all those start-ups from the crazy kids have perks like that. There are also a number of subplot of little to no relevance to the larger narrative, like Ben breaking into Jules’ mother’s house to delete an e-mail with his co-workers, played by Adam Devine, Jason Orley, and Zack Pearlman, the latter in the context of the film coming across as a low rent Josh Gad. That’s just one of many scenes that could be excised to make this two-hour comedy go down a little easier.

The bizarre human interactions that make up much of The Intern are simply weird. First of all, why would any company seek out senior citizen interns? Sure, the film tries to explain it away, but it still makes no sense beyond, “Hey, that’s a silly premise!” For reason that are unclear, Meyers completely obscures the fact that Jules is married with a young daughter until nearly 40 minutes into the movie. That relationship for Jules, however, is quickly undermined due to her working ways and then resolved with what could only be explained as the nonsensical masterstroke of a writer with a rather odd world view – it’s just baffling. In another scene, Hathaway is scolded by stay-at-home moms for being a working woman. It comes across as the work of someone aiming to empower women in cinema in 1955. Noble in intent but tragically outdated.

From its indistinguishable, inoffensive musical score to its static direction, there’s little of merit about The Intern. It must be said that this film isn’t made for someone my age. The Intern is definitely geared towards an older crowd, one freaked out by the changes of modern society and intimidated by technology. At my screening that crowd seemed to eat up everything about the movie. Unless you’ve always wanted to see a scene where Robert De Niro signs up for Facebook, The Intern has little to offer in the way of comedic opportunities.

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