Family Movie Review: The Intern (PG-13)

TheIntern ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13         Length: 121 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 14+. The film is about an unlikely friendship between a senior citizen retiree and a 30something businesswoman, and so the plot revolves around their work lives and personal lives. Some cursing, some language, some sexually themed jokes, some kissing, implied sexual activity, an implied erection, and an extramarital affair, some jokes about mental illness, some drunkenness and drunken vomiting.

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway have good chemistry in 'The Intern,' but the film's contradictory opinions about gender roles, career ambitions, and the Greatest vs. Millennial generations trip over themselves in an attempt to be meaningful.

By Roxana Hadadi

The first plot of "The Intern," with its presentation of a put-together, retired widower creating purpose in his life by interning at a booming online fashion retailer, is a winning one. Robert De Niro is more charming than he's been in years, and it's full circle to see Anne Hathaway, made so famous for her turn as the lowly assistant in "The Devil Wears Prada," to be ruling a burgeoning fashion empire in "The Intern." But when the film expands past their relationship and tries to tackle ideas about generational and gender gaps, it stumbles over contradictions more than it offers any insights.

"The Intern" begins with retiree Ben (De Niro, of "Last Vegas"), a man whose entire life's meaning seems to have been slowly sapped away from him. His wife has died. He's distant from his child and grandchild, who live on the West Coast. He's retired from decades of work at a phonebook company—a career that now seems obsolete. After traveling the world and having a meaningless fling, he's ready to devote himself to something again. So when he sees an advertisement for a "seniors in life" internship program with the up-and-coming online fashion company About the Fit, he realizes, "I just know there's a hole in my life, and I need to fill it soon."

He's a hit at the company, dispensing life wisdom and tough advice to millennials who just can't cope with their jobs or their relationships. But he can't seem to get through to company founder Jules (Hathaway, of "Interstellar"), even though he's assigned to be her personal intern; aside from not being sold on the intern program, she's also under immense stress since the company's venture capitalists have decided that they need a CEO more experienced than she is. Forced to hire someone who will eventually have control over her, Jules is frazzled and on edge—and not interested in mentoring, or even getting to know, Ben.

But, as you can expect from the film's tagline, "Experience never gets old," eventually Jules and Ben come together as coworkers, friends, and then something more familial and affectionate. On the way there, though, there are a number of other subplots thrown in, like Jules's floundering marriage to her stay-at-home dad husband Matt (Anders Holm, of "Neighbors"), and Ben's hijinks-filled friendship with three bros from the office, who admire Ben's wonderful wardrobe, easy nature with women, and generous attitude.

Through those various plots, which often interact with and build upon each other, the film's writer and director Nancy Meyers (who also helmed the mega-successful Meryl Streep/Alec Baldwin romance "It's Complicated") tries to put forth various opinions about gender roles, marital responsibility, and work/life balance. But they're less thought-provoking than repetitive and cliched, often falling into the old-white-men-know-best method of living life.

Jules seems to have no female support system, or even any friends, until Ben comes along and explains everything she should do and becomes her only source of advice. She's given a variety of quirks and a fantastic wardrobe, but she's not much past that. The Millennial men Ben befriends at work treat him not only like the relic of another time, but also like the only male figure in their lives—did they not have fathers, or uncles, or other male relatives to interact with in this way? Do they actually care about Ben's personality, or just his pocket squares?

By the end of the film, Ben becomes the all-knowing, all-seeing dispenser of good will and ethical behavior, which flattens him as a character. He has no edges, no backstory, no depth; a heist scene involving him is the film's funniest moment, but ultimately Ben is revered mostly because he's old, and only secondarily because he's kind. "The Intern" seems to be striving for more than that, but it stumbles into a generational gap of its own making that not even De Niro's extremely gentle and likeable performance can fully save it from.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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