Writer and director Nancy Meyers is known for making popular, feel-good comedies like Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday and her latest film, The Intern, is no different, with a familiar plot. The movie addresses ageism, particularly in the workplace.
70-year old Ben Whittaker (Robert de Niro) is bored to tears by retirement and when a “senior [citizen] internship” opens up at a booming internet startup, he jumps at the chance to impart wisdom and learning something new in the process. He’s assigned to assist the founder of the online fashion site, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), who is rather dismissive and patronising, telling Ben she probably won’t have much for him to do.
But Ben isn’t ready to give up and starts inserting himself into Jules’ life by completing menial tasks without being asked, like tidying the messy desk in the office, or helping to distribute the mail. Ben also makes friends: he advises a fellow (much younger) intern on love (stop WhatsApping or Facebook-stalking your crush, and talk to her), and lets another crash at his home while looking for an apartment.
Jules eventually starts seeing Ben’s value, and he becomes not only a business advisor, but a father-figure, teaching Jules life lessons about parenthood and marriage. At the same time Ben finds some romance. The story addresses issues around career-oriented mothers, stay-at-home dads, and the tendency to sideline the elderly.
The film is sweet but predictable. There is great chemistry between de Niro and Hathaway, and some funny moments, like a scene in which Ben and some of the other interns break into Jules’ mom’s house to delete a nasty email Jules accidentally sent. Ben and Jules also develop a real friendship that has no sexual undertones.
Overall, the film provides smiles rather than genuine chuckles or rumbling laughter. The Intern, like a cup of tea, is nice but forgettable.
Director/writer: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert de Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo
Rating: 3 out of 5
The Intern releases in SA cinemas on 24 September 2015.