In some sick, twisted universe there is something oddly fun about the idea of Robert De Niro toiling away his twilight years interning at a fashion start-up. The same guy who lead the gangster genre being reduced to uploading fall’s sexiest nail colors online has got to be the punch line of a joke, right? Sadly, that twisted universe that I was just hypothetically referencing happens to be our galaxy. And that joke I was referring to, well, that’s actually a real thing too. The film is called “The Intern” and it stars De Niro as quite possibly the world’s oldest intern. Lengthy, unnecessarily dramatic, and sadly simplistic with its comments about gender roles in the workplace, “The Intern” could use some more schooling in the ways of proper storytelling.
Following one of those plotlines that requires an insulting amount of suspension of disbelief, even for a movie, “The Intern” tells the story of recently retired, recently widowed Ben (De Niro). After a long life participating in the corporate rat race, Ben is finally able to enjoy his final years relaxed and free inside his Brooklyn brownstone. Unfortunately, without a job to go to and a wife to take care of, there just doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to anymore.That is, until he stumbles across a flyer advertising a very special internship at a new digital clothing start-up intended specifically for senior citizens. Don’t ask me how to explain the rationale behind the need to hire an intern old enough to have grandfathered most of the company’s employees. As one character puts it, certain studies have proven that hiring senior (citizen) interns are so much more legit than bringing on college aged ones. They have so much more life experience!
This is where Anne Hathaway’s character comes in. She plays Jules, the hardworking CEO of the “About The Fit” company. Jules is the ultimate workaholic. 5 cellphones. 50 meetings a day. 2 hours of sleep a night. 1 stay at home husband. And 1 neglected daughter. This all adds up to more stress than a single human can take. That’s why, even before Ben’s first day on the job, Jules is being pressured to share some of her responsibilities by hiring a CEO to take over part of the company.
Naturally, as soon as Ben comes on board, the pair slowly but surely hit it off and soon become best friends. Yup, it isn’t until an older man begins to take care of Jules that this incredibly strong willed woman finally discovers her true potential.
Written and directed by Nancy Meyers ("It’s Complicated") the real heart and soul of the film is intended to show the audience just how important it is to have corporate desire in life, especially if you are a woman. But at the same time, Meyers refuses to address an even bigger issue plaguing most employees—work/life balance. Jules, as a 30-something CEO of a company, never has time for her family. She is constantly away from her daughter and subsequently her husband has pretty much taken sole responsibility of raising her. Jules also very rarely sleeps, and when she does, it is only in quick bursts between her 3:55 meeting and her 4:00. Even Ben, who functions as the catalyst for Jules’ reform, is addicted to the 9-to-5 thrill of the workplace. Here he is, a 70+-year-old grandpa who deserves to have absolutely zero responsibilities, and he is clamoring to get back into the daily hustle and bustle.
It’s easy to pass “The Intern” off as being just another dramedy meant to fill that awkward void between summer blockbusters and fall award season contenders. It has two incredibly gifted actors as leads and the pair actually turn out perfectly adequate performances. The film also has a few funny supporting members—namely Adam Devine (TV’s "Workaholics"), Zack Pearlman ("The Virginity Hit") and first-timer Jason Orly.
But we cannot let filmmaker Nancy Meyers off the hook that easily. Despite her intentions to empower young people in the workplace, the film has the complete opposite message. Instead of taking time to enjoy friends, family, and life in general, Meyers is proclaiming that nothing beats burning the midnight oil at the office. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being the best employee possible (And I’m not just writing that for my editor to see), everyone deserves a little relaxation time. And when I say relaxation time, I am not referring to ripping double shots of vodka with your fellow workaholics—like Jules does in the film—or sleeping on the limo ride home because you’ve been answering emails non-stop for 48 hours straight—another scene from the movie. There’s nothing wrong with working for the weekend every once in awhile... As long as you’re not working to see this movie over the weekend that is.
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language
Running Time: 121 Minutes