With Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm, Linda Lavin. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language. 121 minutes.
Nancy Meyers is known for comfortable comedies. The characters are engaging and the atmosphere is warm and cuddly. As Ben (Robert De Niro) might put it, inside it’s a lot of mush. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. THE INTERN is a comedy that should appeal to older viewers hungry for entertainment after a summer of superheroes, and anyone not overly jaded by cynicism.
Ben is a 70-year-old widower living in Brooklyn who’s at a loss what to do with himself. Retired from a job he held for 40 years–for a company that made phone books, which underscores how out-of-step he is with the modern world ]–he’s looking for some purpose in life. He sees a notice for a local internet start-up looking for “senior interns,” older people interested in offering the benefit of their experience to the new company.
The company specializes in mail order clothes and Jules (Anne Hathaway), its founder and leader, is a woman on-the-go. She races through the company’s loft space on a bicycle, going from meeting to meeting. She doesn’t even remember approving the intern program, but suddenly she’s saddled with Ben.
Ben is decidedly “old school,” showing up in a suit and tie and an attaché case from the ‘70s. He has to learn how to set up a Facebook account and check his email. When Jules doesn’t have much for him to do, he becomes like a favorite uncle to the other workers, dispensing advice on both the business and personal level. Eventually, he’s working directly with Jules, becoming the surrogate parent/best friend she’s needed.
The plot complications are just that. Her investors want her to select someone to be a CEO and run the business. Her husband (Anders Holm), once a hotshot business type himself, is now a stay-at-home dad. A pushy friend (Linda Lavin) obviously has the hots for Ben, but he’s more interested in the company massage therapist (Rene Russo). In one very silly and contrived sequence, Jules accidentally sends a nasty email to her mother and Ben leads several co-workers in a break-in to delete the message before it can be read.
If this works, it’s because Meyers has noted skills with actors. Think of the unlikely pairings of Meryl Streep with Steve Martin in “It’s Complicated” or Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in “Something’s Got To Give.” Here there’s no suggestion of a romance between Ben and Jules. It’s about a platonic friendship where she gives new meaning to his life, and he brings some much needed grounding to hers.
The two are charming and given how De Niro has largely been coasting along for years now it’s nice to see a performance from him that isn’t phoned in or embarrassing. It’s light comedy to be sure. His comic talents have been underrated but are solid. Without any of the mugging of the “Meet The Parents” movies, he plays someone out of step with the world but gamely trying to catch up on his terms. As for Hathaway, she provides a lovely portrait of a modern woman having her own issues navigating through life, but insisting to do it her way.
“The Intern” is sweet comedy that may not stick with you, but will leave you smiling.•••
North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.