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The Intern: They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

  • Jeffrey Huston Contributing Writer
  • 2015 25 Sep
<i>The Intern</i>: They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

DVD Release Date: January 19, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: September 25, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content and brief strong language)
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 121 min
Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam Devine, Anders Holm, Andrew Rannells, Christina Scherer, Zack Pearlman, Linda Lavin

Who knew Robert De Niro could be so… adorable?

That's just one of the ways The Intern surprises yet also delivers on the promise of its promos and pedigree. Another is by making the oft-too-perfect and precise Anne Hathaway (Interstellar) as soft and vulnerable as she's ever been. A lot of not-so-small miracles are pulled off over the course of this movie, one that ends up being so hugely satisfying. The Intern is that increasingly rare Hollywood offering: a date night (or ladies' night) sure-thing option for adults that really hits the sweet spot.

The latest from writer/director Nancy Meyers, The Intern is her first foray out of romantic comedy territory. Beloved for movies like It's Complicated and Something's Gotta Give, Meyers has been the lone guardian of the late Nora Ephron's realm. Yet while romance takes a back seat this time around (even as various love connections remain on the subplot periphery), Meyers's distinct sensibility of warm-fuzzie sophistication not only remains; it’s actually given a deeper resonance.

De Niro (The Family) plays Ben Whittaker, a widower with too much time on his hands. Unfulfilled by retirement, Ben applies for a new Senior Internship at a booming New York e-commerce clothing start-up. He's assigned to the boss herself, Jules Ostin (Hathaway), a savvy and impressive go-getter who – despite the culture of camaraderie she's cultivated – can be difficult to work with directly (by her own admission). Ben's presence, initially unwelcomed by Jules, inevitably becomes the exact mentoring influence she needs, both professionally and personally.

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Once the script gets past that predictable baseline, we're drawn into an emotionally-rich paternal dynamic between Ben and Jules. Most comedies of this ilk lazily try (and fail) to get by on gag-based humor engineered from the most obvious conflicts. But rather than milking their generational odd couple differences, playing up Ben's tech and social media naiveté, or exaggerating Jules's flustered micromanagement, these elements – while present – are endearing and even nuanced flavors that serve as inroads into a more meaningful connection.

The Intern isn't another retread of two opposites who grow to learn from one another in equal measure. It's the story of a strong but overwhelmed woman who needs someone in her corner, and the man who finds purpose again by having her back. It doesn't merely pit generations against each other; it brings them together, not just by film's end but rather as a substantial thematic foundation throughout. In Meyers's hands, a "Senior Internship" isn't a high-concept Hollywood plot contrivance; it's portrayed with thoughtful integrity (and don’t be surprised if this movie single-handedly starts a new corporate trend).

This rich relationship is rooted in more than De Niro's gravitas and Hathaway's doe-eyed smile; the script and its characters are grounded and layered. Even so, Meyers maintains a deft directorial touch that, with the help of an infinitely delightful supporting cast, allows some heavy dramatic turns to be taken with sensitivity. Never too sober or too sappy, this is Meyers's most assured effort to date, giving us "all the feels" – from the funny to the sentimental to the painful – in ways that are earned, not cheap.

At a time when our culture seems as divisive and polarized as ever, films like The Intern – ones that provide comfort by credible rather than manipulative means – are like a calming salve to the soul. They remind us of our better angels, even when confronted by blindsides and doubts; of the power in being seen by another for whom we are at our best, and then being held to that standard, lovingly, when we're feeling our worst; of wanting to be there for others when they can't believe in themselves. The Intern evokes all of the above.

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The Golden Age for this kind of film has, regrettably, long since passed. In this century, the genre has mostly devolved into raunchy gross-outs, too-quirky hipster indies, clichéd dysfunctional family dramedies, or just lame propped-up formulas. Bubbly, fluffy modern movies have forgotten the virtues of charm, of class, and of virtues themselves – such as a soundtrack elevated by jazz, soul, and big band pop standards.

But just when you're ready to shrug your shoulders and wonder why they don't make them like that anymore, Nancy Meyers comes along and does. And for a couple of hours, at least, she gives us that cinematic escape – not to the unattainable ideal world we wish for but to the flawed world we live in, with the ideal of how to help each other through it.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Some scenes of alcohol consumption. One scene in a bar in which a person becomes drunk (and vomits afterwards). A man drinks on the job.
  • Language/Profanity: Infrequent profanities, but a handful that includes one F-word, a B-word, an A-word, an S-word, and a typed censored reference to the F-word. A middle finger is used as the F-word is mouthed but not spoken.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Some massage scenes involving a professional masseuse (arousal by a man is comically implied). A massage scene in which a person walks in and wrongly assumes oral sex is taking place. Scenes of a married couple in bed; fairly chaste, snuggling together (brief fondling of husband by wife is mildly implied), with one or two flirtatious gestures. Occasional kisses between adults. Discussions of sexual activity between unmarried couples.
  • Violence/Other: None.

Publication date: September 25, 2015

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