There are very few movies that I refer to as “charming”. Films like She’s All That or You’ve Got Mail share this description as they are able to do something that you do not see to often in film today. And that is to pull off what could easily be looked at is a mundane and everyday experience on-screen in such an enjoyable and well-done way that you cannot help but enjoy the film. The two films mentioned above are not the only exception, but they always come to mind when I think “charming”. Another, more recent, film that I had the pleasure of [finally] seeing that would fall under this description for me was The Intern, starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro.
The movie could have easy became annoying as movies that share the same plot devices often get too caught up in making fun of old people or, conversely, young people. We get it, old people are out of touch with technology and young people are out of touch with chivalry, manners, and are incapable of socializing. And, while this movie certainly had some of those moments, The Intern didn’t dwell on them nearly as much as it could have. In fact, while the movie does make fun of old and young people alike, it seems to focus more on what each age bracket has to offer rather than both sides rejecting one another. By the end of the film, De Niro’s character has helped improve the lives of those around him via his lifelong experience and the “youngsters” around him have helped him as well. Not just by updating him with social media, but offering advice on how to handle the new world along with filling a void in his life. The film was an absolute pleasure to watch and may go down as one of my secret loves in film that I will watch whenever I see it on cable.
Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower who has, essentially, done everything he has ever wanted to during his retirement. Now that he has, he attempts to fill up his days by keeping busy. But he finds that he is incredibly lonely and unfulfilled in his mundane life and, when he chances upon a flier for a “Senior Internship” at a start-up company, he decides to re-enter the workforce. The sends in a video-interview that leaves most of the staff who watched it in tears as Ben seemingly has a way with words and laid everything on the line for the internship. He, as you may have guessed, gets the job and starts work at a newly founded company called About the Fit, an e-commerce clothing site, run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).
About the Fit is a startup that took off way too quickly and Jules finds herself overwhelmed by the work. She likes to oversee everything and micromanages like crazy because she is passionate about her company. Her investors think it might be a good idea to bring in a seasoned CEO rather than let her get overwhelmed and , potentially, ruin the company. She reluctantly agrees to look into viable candidates but remains skeptical as she doesn’t want to have a “boss” placing the company in the wrong direction. Meanwhile Ben gets assigned to Jules as her personal intern but she, being a micro-manager and distrusting him, never gives Ben much to do.
Until he accidentally spots her driver drinking outside by her car right before she is about to leave for an interview with a potential CEO. He runs downstairs before she gets there and asks the driver to ask to take the day off– to keep Jules safe. The driver reluctantly agrees and Ben becomes her driver for the day, and the rest of the film going forward. With his new position, he slowly gains her trust and she realizes that he has a lot of experience and knowledge to share and she begins to give him more and more work as he becomes a bigger and bigger part of her life, taking on an almost fatherly type role.
One thing, in particular, that strikes about this movie is the utter lack of love interest between the main protagonist (De Niro) and Ostin (Hathaway). Many movies make this mistake and it is getting to the point that is feels a bit…well… eye-role worthy. Movies do it when there is no need for it! Not every body in film has to fall in love–some people are content with who they are and do not need a relationship with another to fill some weird void. In fact, one of the truly bold things about this movie is that the main protagonist doesn’t really have any sort of character-development arc. He doesn’t need it. he has lived his life to the fullest and is only in his current predicament because he is just bored in a broad sense. He takes up working again not because he needs love, money or power– but just because it is something to do. As such, he is more or less the “rock” for other characters in the film and acts as a mentor, father figure, role model and more for many of the people found in the fictitious company About the Fit. Hathaway’s character doesn’t fall for him as a sexual partner but as more of a wise father. He always says the right thing and does the right thing and De Niro pulls of the character so well, you do not ever find yourself annoyed with it like you might have if the role was given to someone less talented.
Actually… I technically lied… there IS a love story in the movie as Ben starts to court the in-house masseuse, Fiona (Rene Russo). But Fiona, like many of the other characters found within this charming and well-done film, is very funny and well-scripted enough. And their love is a bit unique given their ages. Simply put, they are old. So what do old people do on their first dates? Do they go out to a fancy restaurant or a night club? Nope. They end up, hilariously and sadly, at a funeral home as one of Ben’s longtime friends recently passed without warning, as people of that age often do. Honestly, their whole courtship within the film is nothing new or groundbreaking–they certainly wont win an academy award for “best-couple”– but it is fun to see how a standard romance plays out with people who would have otherwise been fine for the rest of their lives had they not met.
If I have to offer something in the way of a negative for this film, it would be two simple things. (1) The movie was paced really well… until the ending… it felt as if the person who wrote the screenplay just sort of….ran out of material. It felt as if the director just chose a random stopping point and called it a day. The ending of the film can often be the most important part and I haven’t seen a movie in a while that had such a great 98% of a film and just decided to casually drop the ball on the last 2%…the ending will definitely leave you wanting more. (2) There is a bit of infidelity in this film and, though brief as it may have been, it felt pointless to the overall story and came off as if they just threw that in the film just to invite some random conflict. Those are my only two negatives about the film that I can think of…
This movie FEELS and develops similar to a romantic comedy…with the romance taking a backseat for some of the other major characters. Or if there is romance for the other main characters…perhaps it is more of a mentorship-love… All the characters love Ben as a father or mentor…or…well…senior-human? And what comes out of a movie like this is a pleasant journey where the main character need not learn anything new but he helps, in his sage-like way, those around him. You get to feel fulfilled as the characters around Ben become more fulfilled by his mere presence and influence. While the film might not be everybody’s cup-o-tea, I definitely recommend it (at least) as a solid date movie.
The plot, though often predictable, is oddly charming and could have easily centered around any one of the main characters in the film and would have probably been just as successful. Every character in the film, with the exception of Russo and DeNiro, have a sort of sub-growth-arc within where they sort of grow for the better. It gave the whole film a sort of “sitcom” feel but was able to successful execute this arcs within a film and not have it feel like they crammed way to much into the movie’s two-hour runtime. (15/20)
The characters were all extremely funny and fun in this film– from the young and dumb new intern to the middle-management office idiot, everyone has their charm in the film and no one is really wasted. Even the person who cheats on another character in the film (I wont say who) is done so well that you both hate what the person did but also understand their point of view. That is something really tough to do as we are all taught that cheating is something pretty cut-and-dry. Ben (DeNiro) does such a good job as the old wiseman in the film also and I really love his character… he is perfect the way he is and doesn’t need to change for the times! (20/20)
The acting was superb, at least in my humble opinion, and while most of the film is full of light-hearted moments, De Niro and Hathaway share some on-screen drama throughout the film and share some heavy moment that are done very realistically. Additionally, one thing I think will be very overlooked in this film are the subtle nuances that can be seen when Hathaway and De Niro’s relationship is slowly developing…like facial expressions or passing glances that tell a big story as to what the characters are thinking (often about each other) that has zero dialogue in the film. These little details added so much to the film and made it extremely enjoyable to watch the two actors together. (20/20)
While the majority of the film has an awesome storyline that follows DeNiro’s journey into an internship for a company that he, quite honestly, has no business being a part of at first glance, the ending along with the middle infidelity issue provide some major flaws for the film as it sort of dampens an extremely fun film and feels a bit out-of-place. (15/30)
I cannot say that their ad-campaign was one that would inherently draw a big crown, it certainly captured my attention as an interesting film that I wanted to see. So while I cannot give its ad-campaign full points, it certainly has my respect overall. (6/10)