The Intern

In Films by Sabina Smitham

The Intern wants you to know that it’s OK for women to want it all. Women! It yells. You can run your own start up and have a perfect family all while being irredeemably kooky! Or not, if you don’t want to! Just do what you want, yeah?!  For all the time writer-director Nancy Myer’s ultra-light workplace comedy spends telling us what it thinks, it somehow manages to miss its own point.

Anne Hathaway plays Jules, founder of e-commerce business About the Fit, wife to a stay-at-home husband and mother to an adorable daughter. She’s clearly nailing it; except that she isn’t. Thank God for Ben (Robert DeNiro), retired 70-year-old widower, searching for a bit of meaning in his empty, old life. When Ben becomes Jule’s intern, he’s soon furbishing Jules with business and relationship advice, telling her she’s had too much to drink, and generally overstepping an intern’s professional boundaries.

Despite DeNiro’s cuddly performance, Ben is the patronising heart of The Intern. Myers has earned her plaudits for writing strong female characters, but here the women are weepy office-girls, bitchy playground moms, or sexy masseuses serving up some wink-wink-nudge-nudge (poor Rene Russo). In this version of New York, every woman is a stereotype, so it’s no wonder Jules is struggling to cope.  And equally unsurprising that the solution is a paternal cuddle from an old guy with a hankie.  It’s OK though, because at one point Jules sets Ben up on Facebook, proving that Ben’s not the only one with wisdom to offer.

As it happens, The Intern has views on old people too;  they aren’t just cute, they’re multi-faceted individuals. Odd then, that DeNiro’s character is basically an amenable version of the old guy from Up which is, in fact, the most enjoyable thing about the film. The comparison stops being fun when Russo gives him a comedy-boner, in a moment that sums up The Intern’s real stance on this subject. Old people! (more yelling), we know you have plenty to offer! Not just wisdom – boners too!

It may be that we could stand to relax and take The Intern as a bit of harmless fun. Admittedly, all the variations on Ben misunderstanding a proffered fist-bump may elicit some rainy-afternoon chuckles.  Hearts may even be warmed a little. But if The Intern insists on claiming big principles, it should at least have the guts or brains to commit to them.