Nutshell: folks who love Nancy Meyers’ modern-day fairy tales will love this one too. Things are tied up way too nicely at the end, but De Niro and Hathaway are charming. Grade: B
Nancy Meyers is queen of women’s comfort flicks. The Holiday, Baby Boom, What Women Want. Heck, she even managed to do a wonderful job rebooting The Parent Trap, making the story more all-ages than the original (casting affable actors Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson didn’t hurt either.) So you know going in that The Intern will be a fluffy throw-pillow of fun that won’t tax you too much, and will leave you with some warm fuzzies as you head to your car. And that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Ben Whittaker is 70 years old, and bored out of his mind after his retirement. A widower, his empty house only serves to remind him that he’s got no place to be, nowhere to go. So when he sees a flyer advertising for senior interns (read: over-60 years old), he goes for it. And finds himself working with Jules Ostin, the CEO of an online fashion website who is Type A times twelve. Can these two help each other? Um, this is a Meyers joint; of course they can.
While you may think that with Hathaway as chief of a fashion factory, this film could be summed up as The Devil Split And Went Online, the Meyers touch means edges are sanded smooth and conflict is done away with quickly. Too quickly. Ben is welcomed with open arms by his hipster millennial coworkers, Jules takes two days to bond with her new intern/BFF, and Ben instantly finds love at the office when on-site masseuse Fiona (Rene Russo, still as smoking as she was in The Thomas Crown Affair) makes the scene.
While the happy-ever-afterness that typify Meyers’ work is here in full force, this time it feels a bit uncomfortable. The messy bits are tied up a bit too nicely, and Ben’s life is barely considered beyond his romantic success. Is there plenty to enjoy here? Absolutely. The cameraderie between Ben and his office bros Jason Davis and Lewis (Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley), while seemingly instantaneous, is sweet and believable. Jules and daughter Paige (the adorable JoJo Kushner) have a nice onscreen chemistry. And anytime I can see Andrew Rannells or Linda Lavin goofing around, I’m happy.
The screenplay, while pandering to the Happy Ever After place in all of us, is whip-smart. Meyers hasn’t lost her way with a quick quip, and she manages to have millennials sound like millennials while keeping the older generations grounded in their own ways of being. The generation gap is joked about, but neither generation is used as the fall guy. “What was your major? Do you remember?” asks the intern interviewer; and later Ben gets to zing back when asked the worn-out interview question “where do you see yourself in 10 years”. Even young Paige sounds, well, young. A bit precocious, but hey; the girl lives in Park Slope.
There are a few hiccups that stand out for me; Lavin’s “don’t know nothin’ ’bout no internets” cameo feels a bit inauthentic for today’s Boomer. Jules’ husband Matt, who decided to quit his job and become a stay-at-home dad, could have had a rich subplot, especially as the SAHD revolution is in full swing. But his decision, and how it affects him, is barely addressed. And then there’s [SPOILER ALERT] the way in which Jules’ husband’s infidelity is brushed aside in a way that reminds me of The Women. The affair itself is introduced suddenly, and doesn’t feel like a logical character progression from what’s come before. And the instantaneous “I’m sorry”/hug-it-out way of wrapping that up feels unbelievable, and way too quick. A bit more focus on Matt’s conflict would have gone a long way towards making this sudden turnabout believable. That subplot resolution left a bad taste in my mouth, felt like it was only introduced as another bonding moment for Jules and Ben, and kind of ruined the climax of the film for me. Anyway. Moving on.
For most, The Intern can easily be added to the Meyers Shelf Of Comfort Food Films. De Niro and Hathaway have a fantastic onscreen rapport, there are plenty of laughs throughout, and Meyers is definitely in her element. While a stumble at the end may not ruin it for fans, with the strange hiccup at the end of this film, I’m saving the shelf space between my copies of The Holiday and Baby Boom for something else. But I know I won’t be able to resist giving it another look whenever it’s on cable.