I really wasn’t looking forward to sitting through writer/director Nancy Meyers new dramedy The Intern. When was the last time we could count on Robert De Niro? This movie looked like nothing more than a fluff piece showing he’d officially thrown in the towel and succumbed to the almighty paycheck movie. I know even ol’ Bobby’s gotta eat, but judging from the trailer, even he was too good for how the film looked.
Not that Meyers’ films are anything we can rely on either. At 35 years old now, I’ve never wanted anything to do with her brand of schmaltzy chick flicks: It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, and What Women Want. But I do have to admit I am a fan of her written work from the ’80s and ’90s: Private Benjamin, Protocol, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Baby Boom, both Father of the Bride films, Once Upon a Crime, and I Love Trouble.
Sure, none of these were ever close to Oscar-worthy efforts, but her screenplay credits are far more reliable than her work behind the camera. So how does The Intern fare? It’s actually her most watchable since The Parent Trap. While that may sound like faint praise, it’s the best thing she’s directed so far, and I walked out liking the film way more than I thought I would.
Ben (De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower who knows the only way to get through life is to keep himself on the move. After using up his frequent flyer miles, and avoiding dates with flirtatious geriatrics, he runs across a senior internship at a fashion site run by Jules (Anne Hathaway). The whole office is instantly smitten with him, except for Jules, whom he’s assigned to assist. But soon enough, he wins her over too, and life lessons are learned while hilarity tries to ensue.
To be honest, The Intern gets off to a very rocky start, but once it finally gets over the har har look at ol’ Bobby, he’s so old jokes, and into the story and characters, there’s plenty in The Intern to satisfy even the harshest critics. The cast are all highly enjoyable, each finding their own moments to make you laugh out loud. Not that we shouldn’t expect that from the likes of Adam DeVine and Zack Pearlman, but even De Niro and Hathaway provide more than enough chemistry to make their friendship believable.
Even the romance between Ben and the office masseuse Fiona (Rene Russo) takes a backseat to the Ben/Jules story — something we never seen when there’s possibility of turning a film into a full-blown chick flick. This is the De Niro/Hathaway project and they keep the laughs and drama feeling grounded. It’s nice to see grown up characters having real conversations with each other, and the drama between Jules and her husband Matt (Anders Holm) has actual conviction and a surprisingly realistic resolution.
The Intern is far from a perfect film, the first 30 minutes are very deceiving and make the rest of the film a complete surprise. Meyers may still never be below stooping to having her cast act ridiculous, but with this troupe of players she manages to pull it off. Even when they’re breaking into someone’s house to steal a laptop from an email gone awry. Meyers knows her audience, but this time there’s way more than usual for everyone, making The Intern a nice diversion between the doldrums of late summer/early fall releases while we eagerly wait for the good stuff: Oscar bait!