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October 19, 2015

Robert De Niro's Intern isn't just an 18-year-old coffee-boy

Nancy Meyer’s newest movie, The Intern, is an unusual take on the classic buddy film. Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a septuagenarian intern to Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), the ambitious founder and CEO of an e-commerce fashion startup.

A widower who is bored with the monotony of retirement, Whittaker is adorable in a grandfatherly way; while he helps around the office, he dispenses old-timey wisdom. I found De Niro’s grandpa-type character to be more two-dimensional than the neurotic father he plays in Silver Linings Playbook and the aggressive father-in-law that he presents in Little Fockers. The Intern is also starkly different from the other movie centered on an elderly character that came out recently, Grandma, which stars Lilly Tomlin as a swearing, feminist badass. In The Intern, Whittaker falls into more typical senior tropes, playing a big-hearted, but uncomplicated character. In comparison to Tomlin, he’s depicted as a saint. Whittaker cleans up the office, suggests groundbreaking ideas, saves Ostin from getting in a car with a drunk driver, and even babysits Ostin’s daughter. He gets a little bit of a story arc with his courting of the office masseuse, Fiona (Rene Russo), but there is no sort of backstory or insight into his character otherwise.

Despite the title, it is Anne Hathaway’s Ostin who drives the plot. Ostin falls into the typical working mother archetype to some extent, but this movie is also refreshingly aware of this fact. At one point in the movie, Ostin drops her daughter off at a birthday party, where the other snobby mothers spurn her success by implying her job has made her absent. Upset, Ostin later complains, “It’s 2015, are we really still critical of working moms, still?” Watching this, the viewers are left with some questions of their own: Why is being a successful female with a family still a central movie theme? Shouldn’t society be so beyond this convention of a stay-at-home dad and working mom that it doesn’t even need to be addressed?

On the comedic end, I found some of the humor a little weak. Most of it is centered around the “hilarity” of a 70-year-old being able to still have a relationship with a woman or the various hijinks the interns get into while trying to help Ostin. Besides that, most of the movie is just the humdrum of everyday life played out with a little exaggeration.

Sometimes it’s nice to watch a movie where the main characters are mostly good people worth rooting for, but in my opinion, this movie isn’t nearly engaging or groundbreaking enough to warrant seeing it in theaters. However, if you’re looking for some light-hearted fare featuring some good life lessons and not too much drama, this film would be great for a chill weekend night once it is released to TV or Netflix.

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