Title: The Intern
Director: Nancy Meyers
Major Players: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo
Out Of Five: 2.5
Here’s a film with an interesting idea behind it. Senior internships. With the retirement age going up and people working for longer, it’s already happening here: one high street bank has started apprenticeships for the over 50s. So it gets The Intern off to a positive start. The sad thing is that it was about all I liked about it.
Former top executive Ben (Robert De Niro) has been retired for some years and, since the death of his wife, has filled his days with language courses, travel and t’ai chi but it’s all rather empty. He’s looking for a new challenge and gets it when he’s taken on as a senior intern by a go-ahead internet fashion start-up. He’s assigned to work for company’s founder, Jules (Anne Hathaway) and, while she’s not sold on the idea at first, she soon finds he’s indispensable.
An intern with all the life and work experience that goes with more than 70 has plenty of potential for a good comedy – maybe something more serious as well – but writer and director Nancy Meyers has squandered it. If she intended to produce a comedy that had something to say about age or relationships between generations, then I’ve got bad news for her. It does neither. The laughs are negligible and those that raise a giggle are all the obvious ones: Ben enjoying a massage at his desk more than he should, to the amusement of the younger members of staff sat either side. As for saying something about how younger and older people rub along, the film is so clichéd it’s essentially struck dumb.
You see, nobody can resist Ben. He’s so genial, he gets everything right, he’s polite, wise and has that twinkly, ever-so-slightly artificial smile that De Niro uses in a comedy role. Truth is, you can see more than a flicker of embarrassment in his eyes. You’d feel for him, if you weren’t watching somebody with De Niro’s talent and track record. It’s not just the idea behind the film going to waste, it’s the leading man as well. The character is simply too good to be true and it’s only down to De Niro’s acting that you don’t either want to scream with frustration or just throw up. Jules does the latter at one point in the film, but she’s been on the tequila.
That’s not the end of the artifice. Ben was a senior manager – and now he’s actually working in the same building as twenty years ago (how’s that for a coincidence! Yeah ….) so he has a nice lifestyle. Actually, it’s more than nice: it’s luxurious. A place for everything and everything in its place. Rows of ties, shirts, trousers and jackets. The house is immaculate inside and out, and so is he – so how does that happen? There must be legions of maids and launderers somewhere, but we never see them. He also works all the hours that God sends, so his energy has to be limitless. There’s no way that would happen, t’ai chi or no t’ai chi.
The story itself is all over the place. Once Ben’s got the job, made friends with everybody and Jules decides she likes him after all, it’s really got nowhere to go. So there’s the contrivance of having to choose a CEO to take the pressure off Jules’ shoulders and, just to keep things going, some trouble in her paradise of a home as well. It all goes nowhere. And when a film has so little to say and is going nowhere, it’s in trouble.
I’ve seen this described as a rom com, although I can’t understand why. De Niro has a pleasant little thing going with the company masseuse, Rene Russo and there’s a father/daughter affection between him and Jules. But that’s about it. None-com is more like it.
Nancy Meyers’ films seem fall into two piles. In the plus one are It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give. In the negative one is The Holiday. It’s about to get some company.
The Intern is released in cinemas on Friday, 2 October and will be reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 1 October.