Movie Review: The Intern

The Intern benefits from the unexpected chemistry of its leads, but its formulaic plot, shallow characterization, smug life lessons, and regressive implications turn it into a forgettable piece of Hollywood fluff.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower who has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

The Intern is a reverse image of The Devil Wears Prada, with Anne Hathaway now the one who’s throwing the coat at an eager intern.

The movie is mainly bolstered by its cast. Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway have this odd yet charming chemistry on screen. The supporting cast is amusing enough.

The cinematography is bright and chipper while the production design is detailed. It’s an expensive homogeneous world but consistent and eye-catching.

As we take a look at the rest of the movie however, its clear that The Intern is committed to nothing but be a typical piece of fluff from the Hollywood machinery that wants to remind us of the status quo.

The Intern teaches us that a micromanaging female business owner can only be saved by an old white man because she can’t get support on her own and from her peers. He’s too old school cool to fit in today’s hipster workplace and leads a caper to prove it. In one tirade by Jules, even the guys of today’s generation couldn’t compare to the gentlemen of the previous like Jack Nicholson, which ironically makes this drunk moment true enough.

Ben Whittaker is unflinchingly sunny, chipper and eager to work in the 9-5 grind for the rest of his life, obviously not a problem for a privileged middle class white male. The rest of the cast are all contained in their cookie cutter mold, including the band of misfits, the sassy gay friend, the female love interest, and the adorable supportive family.

They all function in their assigned roles in a predictable plot wherein Ben eventually turns from neglected intern to mentor, best friend, chauffeur, and marriage counselor. He secures his right hand position after a minor stumbling block caused by an old woman who’s bad at driving.

Towards the end, the audience is subjected through a cringe-inducing dialogue between Jules and her husband. At the end of the day, characters are defined by their job and family without room for any individuality. The movie wraps up with a Hollywood ending, again reminding us that Jules can’t live a holistic life without Ben.

The Intern could have taken a look at a timely issue of ageism in the workplace, especially now as technology continues to play a role in business. Instead, it prefers to make old jokes about people who don’t know how computers and social media work. It’s as if fat cats in the media are selling too much feminism that others felt the need to assert their place.

Seriousness aside, the movie plays it too safe to generate memorable entertaining moments. Ben effortlessly wins Jules affectations because Hathaway doesn’t get to do much with her role. The rest of the characters are just used to prop up the old man. This includes the underused Rene Russo, whose character solely exists to remove the icky romantic angle of the leads’ dynamic.

If you’re looking for a generic lighthearted comedy with an endearing cast to distract you for an hour or so without any mental effort, Intern would be a fitting choice. Overall, its neither smart nor funny as it thinks it is.

My Rating: 4/10

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