Past the Popcorn: Robert De Niro Hits the Mark Again in The Intern

by Jeff Walls

After a long and storied career made up mostly of dramatic roles, Robert De Niro has found some success in his later career with comedic roles.  He played on his history of playing gangster roles with the big hit Analyze This and then followed that up with the even more successful Meet the Parents series, but The Intern might be his best work in a comedy since Midnight Run came out in the eighties.

De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a retired widower who is having trouble filling his time.  When he sees a flyer for a senior intern position at an online clothing sales company, he thinks it might be a good way to get back into a routine and experience some new things.  After his nine-year-old grandson explains to him how to upload his video resume, Ben impresses in every interview and is given the job.  He is immediately assigned to work directly with the company’s founder, Jules Ostin.

the-intern-insetJules is played by Anne Hathaway.  She started this company and oversees every part of it, even going so far as to try on the clothes she sells herself to help describe the fit.  The company is growing rapidly and some of its investors are concerned that Jules won’t be able to handle it herself, so they are looking to hire an outsider to be CEO.  This doesn’t sit well with Jules, even if it might allow her to spend more time at home with her husband and daughter, because this is her company and she can’t stand the thought of having to run ideas past someone else.

Jules dismisses Ben at first, feeling that she has nothing her new 70-year-old intern can help her with.  Ben quickly establishes a solid reputation around the office, however, and Jules begins to take notice.  Perhaps a veteran business man with no need or desire to climb the corporate ladder and only looking to help may be just the mentor Jules needs both in business and in life.  After all, as the tagline suggests, experience never gets old.

The Intern is written and directed by Nancy Meyers, whose films are never very complicated—despite her last one being called It’s Complicated—but they are consistently enjoyable and entertaining.  This movie is no exception.  The Intern is the kind of movie that you watch with a smile on your face throughout.  This is mainly because, as a screenwriter, she excels at writing characters an audience can easily care about and cheer for.

The lead characters in The Intern are no exception.  Jules is a strong working woman and we are proud of her for taking a simple idea and turning it into a successful business.  Hathaway’s performance allows us to see just how dedicated she is to her dream of running her own company, while still getting across that it is hard for her to not be able to spend more of her time with her family.

But as good as Hathaway is as the movie’s true protagonist, De Niro is the real star of the show.  The actor is perfect as the retired businessman with a lifetime of experience he can share with his new younger co-workers.  He dresses to impress, wearing a suit everyday to work even though the office is “totally cas’” and shocking his fellow office workers with the fact that he shaves every single day.  He’s so much the perfect role model, that I also left the theater thinking I should dress up for my next day of work.

De Niro’s Ben is not all business, though.  He has an excellent sense of humor about his role as a senior intern.  Also, there is a scene in the middle of the movie that comes completely out of the blue and proves just how far Ben is willing to go to help those he cares for.  It is the most enjoyable sequence in the movie.

Meyers also adds some nice, subtle character touches for Ben in the middle of the movie.  There is a moment in a hotel room when a movie comes on television and we know from Ben’s reaction alone that this movie means something more to him than just being a classic movie.  And there is another scene in which Ben describes his connection with the office space that is a wonderful moment.

The movie does suffer from a somewhat forced plot development in its final act and we can certainly question some of the decisions that the characters ultimately make, but when a movie is as enjoyable as this, it is easy to look past its flaws and just enjoy the experience.

The Intern opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16 and the AMC Kent Station 14. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? It’s reportedly gonna happen! Until then, eat local before you go!

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2 Responses to “Past the Popcorn: Robert De Niro Hits the Mark Again in The Intern
  1. Mark N. says:

    Hey Jeff – Your reviews are very intelligently written, concise and useful. Keep up the good work.

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