Movie Review: ‘THE INTERN’ – Talent’s Chemistry Rises Above Cliché Riddled Story

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

THE INTERN | 121 min | R
Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo and Anders Holm

Earlier this year, I finished a six-month internship for a sports radio station. Of course, like all other interns in the history of interns, it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it would be. Learning about radio production is great, however talking to various sports nuts on a variety of topics, while interesting, can be grating. Internships are something of a rite of passage for your average college student. It gets you the college credits, however a lot of the work is monotonous and unglamorous. We’ve seen these menial tasks in movies or television, the common one being getting everyone in the office coffee. And while being an intern is usually reserved for twenty-somethings enrolled or newly graduated from college, there are exceptions to the rule; I, for one, interned at the ripe age of 33. In Nancy Meyers’ new film THE INTERN, however, the age exception goes to the far end of the spectrum, as a septuagenarian goes to work at an upstart Internet clothing company.

The film opens on a montage of the life of Ben Whitaker (Robert DeNiro), accompanied by Ben narrating over the sequence. He talks about the various ways he tries to spend his days after his wife passed, all of which leave him feeling empty. As the montage ends, we find out it is a video cover letter to go with his application for the six-week Senior Internship program at About the Fit, a company that sells a variety of clothing over the Internet. In a juxtaposition to Ben’s leisure, we are then introduced to a hectic Jules Oustin (Anne Hathaway), who runs the company that she built from the ground up only 18 months ago. She is currently deciding whether or not to hire a CEO to give her more time at home, but would prove to be a step down from everything she’s worked for to succeed.

After another Ben montage, this one involving the inanity of the interview process, we learn that he will be working directly with Jules. As the employee/employer relationship begins, Jules is very guarded and hesitant about his role in the company; he sits around doing nothing at first. However, because Ben is “old school”, he is determined to find things to do and make himself be known. After helping out his fellow employees, our intern gets more and more involved with work and the personalities at work, which inevitably leads to Jules realizing his worth. Their working relationship then grows as their lives change outside of work, and he becomes her advisor-of-sorts during this time of crises.

Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway star in THE INTERN. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway star in THE INTERN. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

The performances are what lift the material to something better than it should be on screen. DeNiro and Hathaway have a solid rapport, and Meyers does a solid job of making sure Ben doesn’t sound condescending when talking to the younger Jules. He’s very understanding of her as a boss, and respects her for becoming a powerful woman in the small business world. Also, the supporting cast, led by Rene Russo and Adam DeVine, fill the lulls when the protagonists fall flat. Even though it follows the romantic-comedy formula (two people meet, fall in love, etc.), it’s not a rom-com at all. Ben and Jules are pretty much the same person throughout the entire narrative, not once catering to certain repetitive plot points. They don’t need each other in the romantic sense; this is a study of two people finding a balance in their lives.

The main problem with the movie is that the movie itself is very formulaic, heightened only by the shaky dialogue. In fact, it’s so formulaic that it takes a good 30 minutes before it starts to find its own identity. The jokes involving the age difference are stale (Ben and Jules bond over her showing him how to use Facebook), but they got them out of the way quickly to make sure they stayed in his introduction to the employees. I would’ve like for the screenplay to go further into Jules’ business acumen, and not gloss over her success to make it a character trait. She grew a start-up into a multi-million dollar business in 18 months, talk more about it!

Foibles aside, the movie has a lot of charm. The generational gap is there, but it never becomes so overwhelmingly preachy that it takes the audience away from being involved. It has a good heart, and doesn’t throw in any gratuitous conflict in order to make sure they change for the better. THE INTERN goes through the motions, but it gets the job done in the end.

THE INTERN opens tonight at 7 p.m. in participating theaters, and everywhere tomorrow.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.