Movie Review: 'The Intern' (2015)

In Nancy Meyer’s “The Intern,” Robert De Niro stars as a 70-year-old retired widow who’s looking for purpose and a fresh direction for his life. He winds up finding that in an unlikely place, when he answers an ad placed by an online apparel company seeking seniors for an internship program. It is there that he meets the high-strung Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), a self-made businesswoman clawing her way through simultaneous crises in her career and personal life.

It is with its aforementioned female lead that "The Intern" encounters its greatest hurdle. The hard-nosed Jules is not an easy mark for friendship, though nowhere near the level of Meryl Streep’s steely fashion shark in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Jules is still a salty sort though. She is prickly and blunt, so it makes Ben’s instant affection for her, hard to follow. Right out of the gate she is dismissive of him and the entire intern program.

She initially sees it as a drain on her and a waste of time for her youthful staff, never stopping to think of the insulting undertones that come with having a person more than twice the average age of her employees working as an intern. She shows no hesitation in believing these hardworking senior citizens are worthy of being reduced to fetch her dry cleaning and coffee. It is her that is being “put out” in this scenario.

The entitlement she exhibits for an overnight success is staggering. Where’s the humility? While she does come to develop an appreciation for Ben, she never sees him as worthy to rise above his “station”. She appoints him her “best friend” but doesn’t see him as anything beyond that. Her superiority comes off in waves.

There’s a reason this movie is called “The Intern” and not “The Mentor,” Ben is never openly acknowledged as being the latter, despite monumental proof to substantiate it. The youth portrayed in this movie are too proud to openly admit they need mature adult guidance.

There seems to be an unspoken stigma against owning that fact. As if failing to acknowledge it, somehow makes it any less true. Why should young people expect to be in charge of the knowledge it took a senior, twice their lifetime to achieve? Even suggesting such a thing is arrogant beyond belief.

Viewers are more likely to appreciate Ben than anyone in the movie does. Those who are depicted being impressed by him, treat him as a novelty meant for their amusement, seeing him more like a nifty new gizmo than a human being.

What’s surprising about this entire movie is that it was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who's in her mid-60s and should be familiar with the issues facing the older generation. Given that context, it's unclear if the portrayal is meant to be observational of millennial behavior, a hands-off critique or an endorsement of it.

The other issue addressed in the movie is Jules embracing the life of a fully modern woman. She is a working mom and while she laments the judgment of her peers for being such, she fails to acknowledge her husband’s identical struggle as a stay-at-home-dad in the eyes of society. She acts as though she is the only one facing society's judgmental stares and daggered discourse.

She only cites his personal insecurities as the catalyst for his ill ease, not taking into account society’s equally harsh condemnation of his life choice. She’s not the only one bearing the cross of voyaging past gender lines.

The solution to Jules’ work problem stares at her in the face for the better part of two hours. She is told that people within the company desire a CEO to take charge and she recoils. The movie tries to assure viewers that she is the only reason for her business’ success, and while it is realistic to assert she was vital to that occurring, what is also depicted is a rather hectic manager who is disorganized and aloof to the emotions of her employees. She is not a stellar, one in a million boss.

Just because she takes a few calls at customer service and knows how to wrap a box, doesn’t automatically qualify her to run a corporation at the level she desires. The case for her management falls apart with every ensuing scene, only bolstering the case for Ben to fill the CEO chair.

The setup for “The Intern” is cute and the execution doesn’t rely on an overabundance of Smotlz. It’s hearty where it needs to be and honest where other movies of its kind haven’t been. It also deserves accolades for its refreshing presentation of a rarely depicted family dynamic and the tremendous strides it makes in tackling the gender issues facing both sides in the ever evolving world, providing a lot of food for thought and hopefully a lot of healthy discussion.

“The Intern” isn’t a half-tossed dramedy by any means. It has a lot to say and it says so eloquently. Robert De Niro is, as always, a delight as the sagacious Ben and Anne Hathaway breathes unencumbered life into a difficult character. As a duo their chemistry is natural and avoids ever feeling forced.

One message that truly resonates is that in the end, Jules and those around her didn’t need an intern or a mentor to improve their lives. They needed a dad. No positive parental units exist in any of their lives and that is the role and purpose Ben truly offers them. “The Intern” takes a lot of detours in saying it but the simple truth is dads never got out of style. Rating: 6.3/10