The Intern review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
In 2013, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson starred as old salesmen amid young geniuses in The Internship. They’re out-of-touch men by the beginning and web developing gurus in just a few short months. These were my initial fears going into The Intern, a movie of similar title and premise. I wasn’t looking forward to watching Robert De Niro play the old fool as he slowly becomes the hip grandpa of the modern office. But, in a surprising move, The Intern ends up being a more sympathetic and sweet picture about an old man trying to break into a new world of work.
Ben Whitaker (Robert De Niro) is established as a likable former executive and widower. He take on an internship at an internet startup not out of desperation, but boredom with the retired life. At the age of 70, Ben’s entrance into an internet company may seem foreign and frightening, but he approaches it like any other job. He shows up in a suit and tie with his spiffy suitcase and approaches every objective with a smile and great attitude. The young people surrounding him can sense his good nature and do their best to help him out, but not baby him with his tasks. They know he’s capable just as much as he does.
As an intern, he is tasked as being the personal assistant to CEO Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), a frazzled woman with tight schedules and a hectic job managing a company. Again, she is a character that is never really portrayed as a shrewd or cartoonish. There’s something oddly real-world and empathetic about Jules the way they establish her as a leader in need of some help with her company and family to maintain. In steps the wonderful Whitaker to take care of her mounting tasks and hopefully learn to relax.
If all of this seems a little mushy and sentimental, you’re not wrong in the assumption. Even when presented with tougher drama of Jules’ life in the second act, this story is kept very light and fluffy. De Niro and Hathaway are charming individuals to an absurd degree. Though they face certain challenges in their choices with career and life, there’s an air of ease assuring us that everything will work out okay.
Though appearing as an overly sugar-coated dramedy, I found it shocking how this picture didn’t give me a toothache. Maybe I’ve seen too many of these sweet and low dramedies that become so formulaic and mean-spirited, but The Intern slightly won me over with its charm. The more it went along, the more I expected some lame gag to spur forth and topple this picture over the edge. The fact that the picture refuses such easy traps for writing and laughs was rather impressive. De Niro is not trotted out as some inept elderly puppet who needs a social media makeover. Hathaway is never forced through a half-assed mountain of petty troubles to require the assistance of De Niro. These characters are so surreally honest and lovable that I didn’t believe such a picture was possible in a movie landscape that demands top-tier actors be made into slapstick baffoons for a laugh.
The Intern isn’t a perfect movie as it plays it a little too safe for these charming characters. I liked them so much that I wanted to see them thrown into worse situations; not to watch them fail exactly, but to see just how well they can land on their fleet. It’s a soft movie, but perhaps soft is the best route to take for a premise that could have gone down a worse road of tired gags and plotlines. If it doesn’t challenge these character types, it at least gives the audience a therapeutic break from the formulaic pattern of these pictures.