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Friday, September 25, 2015

Movie Review: 'The Intern'

The sappy dramedy The Intern gets the new man so horribly wrong.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Director Nancy Meyers' dramedy The Intern, the retired widower Ben (Robert DeNiro) seeks to give new meaning to his life when he applies for a senior intern program with a fashionable clothing website. At first, the 70-year-old is seriously out of place among an overwhelming amount of hipster men, none of whom seem to have their fahsion or personal games together. But the most difficult person in the office is his boss/owner Jules (Anne Hathaway), who doesn't think she needs the insights of a seemingly old-school tie-wearing retiree. But soon, challenges to her business and home life force Ben into action as the two form a bond that reveals all sorts of unexpected results, with Ben as the indispensable asset and Jules the tough negotiator.

Director Meyers seems to think that the modern man can be divided into hipsters and older gentlemen who still wear a tie to work. Believe me when I tell you that no other types of guys are represented here. Hidden deep under the copycat comedy Meyers has Frankenstein-ed from Oceans 11 and others, there's a dark message about man's new place in society. The screenwriter Meyers treats every guy not named DeNiro as such: this isn't a story about a woman coming to terms with her burgeoning career as much as it is about a retired man who sees the world around him filled with other men making incredibly bad choices, including clothing choices that don't fit.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that no male in The Intern feels real or seems very accurate. Among the worst is Jules' husband played by Anders Holm, who enjoys zero chemistry with Hathaway. As their personal lives begin to fall apart, Holm cannot keep up with Hathaway; their exchange at film's end is almost comical in how badly it doesn't work. The man can't even hug Hathaway without looking like a woman doing it. The other gents assembled here have just as little going for them, perhaps a shot across the bow by Meyers on the current state of men.

If you don't believe me, a particular scene is quite telling: in it, a drunk Hathaway rails against the lack of real men in American society, riling off a list of hunky film leads before stopping to peer on three hipsters who happen to be her employees. Most have facial hair of some kind, dress in clothes which are too tight for them, and all look like they came out of a hipster processing plant hidden deep in a Hollywood studio. Meanwhile, the original tough guy DeNiro looks on, having had his talons clipped years ago by age and shifting social standards. I so wanted to see the Raging Bull in him emerge and slap those boys around, but it's clear those days are long gone. It's these sorts of generalizations and painful realizations that permeate The Intern.

Such a situation makes a film hard to accept, and it happens so often that we forget about the two great leads Meyers has recruited and how well they actually get along. Hathaway, for all of her legitimate Oscar credentials, proves she can glide effortlessly between serious drama and light comedy. Yet, her character is hard to figure out, especially when she's left without DeNiro to navigate the completely unnecessary plot twists which emerge. Why she's given so much to deal with is beyond me, because that's not Ben's job as her assistant. I won't spoil them here, but how she deals with both feels out of place and extends the film's length into two hours. You don't need such a film to be this long, and Director Meyers doesn't seem to know when to authorize a good edit. Scenes extend past their effectiveness on multiple occasions, and it's clear her editor Robert Leighton is either in her pocket or doesn't know how to do his job. But I won't blame Hathaway for that.

DeNiro has replaced that tough guy snarl for a continually sheepish smile that follows him around The Intern like an office assistant who can't keep up with their boss. He plays a nice man looking to reinvent himself, but at his heart Ben is also a bit...efemerate, his house richly appointed yet suffering from a lived-in look, while displaying way too many emotions for most elderly men I know. Yet, DeNiro still retains that film icon presence, especially when the hipsters and other employees seek his deep experience. They are clearly B-league talent compared to him, and it's almost painful the way he moves heaven and earth around them.

The Intern seeks to be nothing more than what it ultimately becomes. It's sappy, melodramatic date night material that most men might find embarrassing to watch, because it gets most men so unbelievably wrong. In a society when our roles are undergoing a seemingly radical overhaul, it's OK to admit that what some men are becoming is just as bland as the film itself.

The Intern is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language and has a runtime of 121 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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