Arts movie review

A tale of two generations

Robert De Niro delivers a charming performance in The Intern

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Anne Hathaway as Jules Ostin and Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker in The Intern.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


The Intern

Directed by Nancy Meyers

Starring Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway

Rated PG-13

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When I first saw the theatrical release poster for The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, I thought that I was in for a Devil Wears Prada part two — but I was only partially right. While The Intern is vaguely reminiscent of Hathaway’s breakout film, the roles are reversed. Hathaway plays the role of Jules Ostin, the hard working CEO and founder of an online clothing retail site, About The Fit. De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old widow who joins the company as a senior intern after deciding that retirement was not for him.

Ben is a stark contrast to the startup company’s staff of young, fashionable twenty-somethings, but he adjusts himself to the trendy environment after befriending fellow workers. As Jules’s intern, Ben gets a peek into the CEO’s hectic lifestyle, which includes riding a stylish bike around the office for faster travel. Ben becomes Jules’s wise counterbalance, and they learn from each other’s wildly different life experiences.

Set and filmed in Brooklyn, The Intern had phenomenal set design. Production designer Kristi Zea chose a gorgeous, naturally-lit brick building for the company’s offices, and filled it with minimalistic, contemporary furniture. “It’s reflecting Brooklyn, e-commerce, start-up, fashion … it’s crisp, hip,” Zea explained. If I ever started a company, I would want its headquarters to look just like the film’s offices.

Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect, Workaholics), Andrew Rannells, and Zack Pearlman star as Whittaker’s colleagues, providing a steady stream of humor that, at times, made the audience roar with laughter. Alongside the humor, however, the film also examines gender roles in society. Gender roles are reversed in the office, where Jules is a female CEO, and they are also reversed in Jules’s family life, where her husband (played by Anders Holm) is a stay-at-home dad taking care of their elementary school daughter. Director Nancy Meyers explores Jules’s work-life balance, in which Jules struggles to complete work-related errands and also spend enough time with her family every day. “Being a woman who’s worked my whole life, and a mother of two, I remember vividly what it was like trying to do well at my job and to be sure to make it home in time for dinner,” Meyers explained. “It was interesting examining what the work-life balance was like for a new generation of families in 2015.”

The film was not without flaws, however. For a film depicting such a fast-paced startup, the dialogue was awfully slow during the sentimental scenes between Jules and Ben. Jules would be talking into three phones at once in one scene, and then switch over to a deep conversation with Ben about her life before the company.

De Niro does a spectacular job as the sage, sensitive fatherly figure to Jules. He plays Ben as the ultimate good guy, doing a good deed of some sort every other scene; however, his character did not seem nearly as fleshed out as Hathaway’s character. For a character with so many supposed life experiences, the film barely brushes upon Ben’s pre-retirement life, and I left the film knowing way more about Jules’s life and personality than his.

Nevertheless, De Niro and Hathaway work well together on-screen, and the emotional connection between their characters seems genuine throughout the film. Hathaway explained, “I was so fortunate to have had Bob by my side. He is such a terrific guy and, it goes without saying, was wonderful as Ben.”