Monday, September 28, 2015

The Intern

This is a fun, cute, fluffy movie. It doesn't say much that is important or new. It doesn't raise the bar on film as an art form. But this is the kind of movie that you can just, dare I say it, enjoy. De Niro and Hathaway have great chemistry (and are of course great actors in their own right). The script sticks close to the formulas, but knows when to veer slightly to make it feel more real. All of the hackneyed, cliched characters are there, but are handled with a deftness that makes you welcome them like comfortable old jeans.

The plot is fairly straightforward, but also interesting. Jules (Anne Hathaway) runs an online shopping start-up that has exploded over the last 18 months. Ben (Robert de Niro) is a retired company man and widower who has discovered that retirement is lonely and boring. Her company starts a "senior intern" program, and Ben sees this as an excellent way to fill his days and feel needed again.

Things get a bit complicated by two factors. One, Jules is actually very uncomfortable around older people because of issues with her parents. Two, Jules is currently being pressured by the investors to hand over the reins to a more seasoned CEO. Fortunately, Ben is able to overcome her reservations on the first part, in order to help her navigate the murky waters of the second part.

Their relationship is handled marvelously. Ben comes to act as a calming anchor to the frenetic Jules, but never really becomes a father figure. He's just a friend. He is loyal, honest, brave, and true, in a way that we all really want to be. Hathaway presents Jules as being endlessly concerned with her company, but without putting herself above her employees.

Some of the best bits, though, come with the other supporting characters. You get the second-in-command who is equally concerned for the company, but from a more back office bottom line standpoint, and who is totally willing to call Jules on her BS. You get another senior intern who tempers the message that "old people are awesome" by being a bit of a bumbler. You get the man-child intern who looks to Ben as a mentor, and grows up in very subtle ways in the background. You get Jules' absolutely adorable little daughter. And several others. Each is used just exactly the right amount to make their point, and then smoothly gets out of the way.

The ending actually ended up surprising me because it didn't fall into one of the standard cliches. But it felt so right. I won't say too much more about it, though.

The movie had a LOT to say about sexism. But it mostly just said it, it didn't show it. If you try to look for a feminist icon or a deeper message, it's just not there. Jules just clearly has a couple talking points about glass ceilings and working moms that she likes to rant about. And yet, as an interesting point, I had to really think to come up with a scene that passed the Bechdel Test that wasn't a mother/daughter conversation.

One of the sexism arguments was interesting to me, even though I disagree with it. There is the scene from the trailer where Jules looks at Ben, then looks at the three 20-something schlubs, and wonders how "we went from Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford to ... this". Her theory is that girls of her generation got a huge dose of "girl power" reinforcement, but the guys didn't. In fact, they got the message that being masculine was bad. Personally, I don't think it has anything to do with sexism. I think it has to do with the final death of classism that came during the dot-com era. There is simply no longer an icon of a "gentleman" for young men to model themselves after.

Of course, on that note, this movie really made me want to learn how to wear a suit properly. And to get some suits.

I do think that this is a movie you should see. Not because you need to, but because it's just nice. If you want to wait for Netflix, that's fine. There's nothing about it that is made better by the theater experience. But do watch it. If nothing else, de Niro does a mirror scene in which he almost slips into his Taxi Driver monologue!

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