The Intern or: Sometimes Boring is Good
Nancy Meyers’ “The Intern” is not exciting, revolutionary, subversive, or even particularly memorable. It is, however, a perfectly serviceable movie. Purposefully broad and nauseatingly predictable, it sets itself off as a film entirely predicated on the skills and experience of its talent. Most of its jokes and premises are ones we’ve heard before, but the cast and crew manage to make them feel fresh and entertaining once again. By far the most surprising aspect of “The Intern” is its restraint, its reluctance to phone anything in. Hathaway and De Niro, stalwart and on point as ever, deliver charming and engaging performances, therefore elevating most of the material. That is not to denigrate the quality of the script though, as everything is set up and paid off solidly. Meyers brings to life a plot that, while at times meandering and cloying, demands the audience’s attention. Her framing of said plot is nothing to write home about but within the frame itself another story is told. Just about everything in “The Intern” works towards reinforcing its central aesthetic. All of these elements mix together creating a work that is hardly excellent and yet never lackluster. “The Intern” is not a great movie, but it is tenacious in its better aspects, which is more than can be said of lesser films. Sometimes, that is enough.
The film bills itself as a vehicle for its offbeat pairing of Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, whose unconventional take on the tried-and-true mentor/mentee relationship drives most of the movie. The joke behind it, of course, is that De Niro’s veteran businessman Ben Whittaker takes the title role of intern to Hathaway’s Jules Ostin, a tech startup CEO. It’s a decent gag, but thankfully not the basis of the movie’s entire repertoire of situational comedy. There’s a recurring through-line behind the idea of an old school entrepreneur stewarding the new generation of businesswoman but, like most of its other interesting ideas, the film doesn’t delve into it as deeply as it probably should. Likewise, there’s an amusing point in the film where Ben all but chastises Jules’ reluctance to go sacrifice her professional aspirations due to what is likely undue pressure. “I hate to have to be the feminist between the two of us,” he tells her, noting the irony.
The chemistry between both stars is undeniable and a large part of what ultimately makes the movie a success. De Niro charms his way through the film, imbuing Ben with both quiet moroseness and gentle joy. He’s like an artifact of a bygone age; only he’s fully aware of that fact and is willing to try anything to remedy that. Ben is open minded, genial, and, most importantly, alive. Hathaway’s in full movie star mode, portraying Jules as a woman whose both at the top of her game and struggling to keep up with herself. She manages to make even the more obnoxious aspects of her character (she rides a bicycle in the office, wacky!) seem natural and endearing. They compliment each other’s strengths and help minimize some of their more grating habits. “I wish your expressions weren’t as transparent,” complains Jules, softening De Niro’s signature borderline mugging affectation during a pivotal moment in the story. They play off each other so well it would almost seem unfair to the rest of the film, were the background elements not just as stellar.
Meyers’ films are notorious for featuring beautifully designed residences. From “The Parent Trap” and its beautiful Napa Valley villa to Meryl Streep’s Santa Barbara home in “It’s Complicated.” Meyers’ directorial endeavors often function more as real estate catalogues than works of art. The Intern is no different, and, more often then not, characters are established just as much through their costumes and environment as by their actions and words. Ben’s vintage briefcase, collection of ties and handkerchiefs, and monogramed robe speaks volumes more about who he is than his jokes about being old. In a similar manner, Jules’ crisply clean and naturally lit office looks beautiful, and conveys a large part of her character to the audience. Meyers sticks to this formula all throughout the film. Every single room feels lived in. Every single outfit feels personally picked out by its corresponding character. Scenes are brightly lit and everything feels slick and glossy. Reflecting this is the film’s soundtrack, which is chockfull of recent pop hits and a saccharine timbre. The tone fits the whole but it sometimes feels like the film was scored by the same people in charge of the “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation albums. All of this manages to coalesce into an aesthetic that’s trite at its worst but intimate at its best.
“The Intern” is perfectly described as forgettable. A film you’ll probably take your mother to. A film that’ll probably spur a great conversation about home furnishing and decor that will probably be fulfilling and gratifying. Or at least it would be, if you weren’t such an ungrateful child. You never call, you know? But I digress; “The Intern” is a good film. It’s funny at times, and heartfelt at others. It’s toothless and infuriating, but only a little. Therein lies the beauty of “The Intern”: it’s not perfect but it’s consistent. Consistency is underrated. Sure, it’s impressive to be great once, but it’s more impressive to be good always.
Written by Daniel Zambrano