STARS; Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm
DIRECTOR: Nancy Meyers
It's the boomers versus the millennials in a friendly competition to determine who really has their act together--and 65 year-old screenwriter/director Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give) leaves little room for doubt at the end of The Intern as to where her sympathies lie.
Ben (Robert De Niro) is 70--a retired administrator, a widower, and at loose ends as to what comes next. So he signs up for a senior intern program at a start-up online fashion store that is going great guns, run by thirty-something founder, Jules (Anne Hathaway). Jules starts out as a cliche--overworked, harried, and so absorbed in her job that she doesn't see what's coming with her emotionally neglected house husband (Anders Holm), who has taken on the role of Mister Mom. (That's the subplot.) As the character of Jules is fleshed out, she becomes a more sympathetic presence. She wants to do the right things, and she's not evil, which automatically puts her above most of the dramatis personae in the films that have been stinking up the big screen all summer.
So here we have Ben, the septuagenarian intern--a guy who wears a suit and tie to work each day--wondering how he's going to fit in with all these young'uns at the company. But when the house masseuse, Fiona (Rene Russo), happens by and gives him a frisky-fingered massage at his desk, Ben has an initially embarrassing response (unaided by any little blue pill), that elicits fist bumps from two of his wide-eyed male cohorts. That won't be the last encounter between Ben and Fiona, and that's subplot number two.
Anyhoo, Ben is assigned to Jules, and at first she doesn't know what to do with him. She even wants him reassigned to someone else. But time after time, he is placed in situations where imparting his wisdom--the kind that comes only from a life fully lived and learned from--saves the day for his tech-savvy (but otherwise rather clueless) counterparts. Sometimes it's just small things, such as the importance of carrying a handkerchief with you. His explanation for that one points up how far we have come, and what we have lost, in the scramble for gender equality and the resulting dance party on top of chivalry's grave.
In The Intern, we have De Niro and Hathaway--two of our finest--in a film about bridging gaps. Generation gaps. Communication gaps. Gender gaps. It will tap your funny bone and tug at your heartstrings. And being the emotionally sensitive type that I am, I can usually tell how much I'm going to enjoy a film when the music first kicks in, and how it resonates with me. The buoyant score from Theodore Shapiro hits all the right notes from start to finish.
Grade: B +