The Intern is a product of our times. The film’s focus is on the relationship between a young start-up founder, Jules (Anne Hathaway), and her seventy-year-old intern, Ben (Robert De Niro). Though the film does not spend too much time calling attention to the absurdity of the situation, it does spend a bit too much time telling us about the characters, rather than showing us.
When her online clothing business decides to hire a group of senior interns, Jules is cautious. She and everyone around her insist that she is difficult to work with and she wants nothing to do with Ben at first. But Ben’s persistence and professionalism eventually wear her down and they grow closer. With Ben by her side, Jules is able to hit new personal and professional milestones.
The Intern is actually quite sweet, and if you are able somehow to get swept up in its sappiness you will like it. Ben and Jules have great chemistry and are fun to watch together. It is also the first film I have seen in a long time where all of the characters are honestly likable. Jules is friendly and focused. Her husband, Matt (Anders Holm), is a good father to their adorable daughter. Even the company massage therapist Fiona (Rene Russo) seems like a good person, if a little sexually aggressive.
Ben is an amicable character too, but he comes across as a little too perfect. Jules is complex and flawed, but Ben is the perfect man. He can solve every problem. He is always perfectly dressed and does the right thing. Some of his impervious perfection is conveyed as being a product of a different generation. However, even when Ben encounters other characters his age they are far more interesting and quirky than he is. He is a perfectly nice guy, but his constant flawlessness makes for a lackluster focal point in the film.
By taking on a female start-up founder and an older male intern you may expect The Intern to deal directly with issues of sexism, upward mobility, or ageism, but the film stays mum on political issues. Jules could have been created to embody the feminist leader I was secretly hoping for, but instead she needs to turn to both Matt and Ben when seeking a confidence boost. By creating Jules as a powerful but flawed woman the filmmaker created Jules as relatable instead of inspiring.
Jules is a good boss to everyone at her company, which is why it puzzles me so much that multiple characters mention how difficult she is to work with. It comes up many times, even from Jules herself, that she is difficult to work for. But she is friendly, kind, and generous. Jules is anything but difficult, so why does the director of the film keep telling us the opposite? That strikes me as sloppy directing.
The Intern is not a bad film. I rather enjoyed getting to know Jules, and the occasional adventure with Ben trying to use his computer and getting the other interns to wear collared shirts was fun enough. But the film lacked the heart and the conviction that I was expecting, given the weighty premise. The missed opportunity is frustrating, especially from a film that has so much going for it.
Director: Nancy Meyers
Robert De Niro
Film Length: 121 minutes
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures