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‘The Intern’ is clearly unsure of itself

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“The Intern,” written and directed by Nancy Meyers, is a stretch for laughs. It is more a light emotional drama than a romantic comedy. In fact, almost everything attempted in the film becomes a bit of a stretch. For the most part, its central concept feels misplaced.

The film focuses on Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) a 70-year-old retired phone book company executive who also happens to be a widower. Ben is on a quest to remain active and productive and live a life that is anything but stagnant. But traveling the world on vacation and doing yoga with other active seniors is not enough.

Ben decides to apply for a senior internship program at About the Fit, a fast-paced, high stakes, up-and-coming e-commerce fashion company. Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) is the company’s founder and CEO and comes to stand out as the opposite of Ben.

She can never be in one place for more than 10 minutes, is constantly stressed out trying to micromanage everything at once, and doesn’t even remember the senior citizen internship program she signed off on.

The audience is made to feel like all hell is about to break loose when Ben receives the internship (it is clear that he is overqualified) and is assigned to work alongside Jules. At first, there is very little for Ben to do other than to sit at his desk in between the two other interns, both of whom are at most half his age.

Again, here we see Ben struggling to not be stagnant. Meyers makes too many references to Ben’s age. Perhaps she forgets that it is apparent from the beginning given De Niro’s physical attributes. It makes for about two good laughs.

In one instance, an employee asks Ben where he sees himself in 10 years, to which he replies, “When I’m 80?” It becomes evident that he is unlike any of the usual interns. Ben doesn’t know how to turn on his laptop, brings a briefcase when others use backpacks and wears a business suit in an environment that is barely business casual.

The entire mood of the films seems to change when Ben spots Jules’ driver drinking some foreign substance out of a brown paper bag. Ben begins to slowly cultivate a strong personal relationship with Jules as her new driver, picking her up to and from work and driving her around where she proceeds to juggle both professional and personal duties.

Everything seems to be going smoothly until one of Jules’ colleagues pulls her aside and recommends she find a new CEO. Jules’s indecisiveness and feelings of self-doubt that follow require Ben’s council. The 70-year old intern that Jules had reservations about in the beginning becomes the person she relies on in the end. The two of them begin to bond and Ben becomes more involved in Jules’ life.

Even though Ben is only an intern, he comes to mentor Jules through her personal hardships, providing her with the advice and facts that are at her disposal. He reminds her that the only person who built About the Fit was herself, meaning it would make no sense for her to step down and let another CEO take her place. The two of them build a more meaningful relationship when Jules asks Ben to accompany her on a business trip to the west coast.

This film is not as compelling as “It’s Complicated,” or any other Nancy Meyer films. Hathaway does too much overacting and some scenes have too many bad jokes to feel anything but awkward. De Niro, it seems, hasn’t done a serious film in 10 years. Given his last decade of performances, this one is neither memorable nor embarrassing.

The film though, provides the lesson that just because someone has more experience, doesn’t necessarily mean that person is smarter.

Isaac Simon can be reached at [email protected]

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