Movie Review: The Intern (2015)

“Experience never gets old.”

1 Stars
The Intern (2015)

The Intern (2015)


Director: Nancy Meyers

Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo

Synopsis: A retire business executive returns to work as a senior intern at a hip online fashion retailer.

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In American movies and literature, a black character whose sole purpose is to provide aid in some way to the film’s white protagonist is disparagingly known as a Magical Negro.  Examples of this phenomenon include Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance, Michael Duncan Clarke in The Green Mile, and Morgan Freeman in just about everything he’s been in.   Clarke has passed on, bless his soul, Smith is too young, and Morgan Freeman must have been busy, because the Magical Negro in The Intern is actually a white actor called Robert De Niro (Last Vegas, American Hustle).   Now, browsing over De Niro’s back catalogue of comedic roles – The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Showtime, The Big Wedding, The ‘Meet the…’ movies, Dirty Grandpa, to name a few – it’s plain to see that old Bob isn’t too clever (or choosy) when it comes to judging the quality of comedy scripts.   While The Intern is by no means as bad as those misfires, it won’t exactly leave you helpless with laughter, either.

De Niro plays Ben Whitaker, a retired business executive who finds retirement a lonely bore following the death of his wife of 32 years.   So, when he sees an ad for senior interns at a hip online business he decides to apply and is pleased to be offered a position.   How hip is About the Fit?   It employs its own masseuse, that’s how hip it is.   Convenient, as well, because seeing how the average age of the staff at About the Fit is approximately 12-and-a-half, it provides the movie with an opportunity to shoehorn in some completely superfluous love interest for Ben (in the handsome shape of Rene Russo) without making him look like a dirty old man.   The company is the brainchild of Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway – The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar – whose resemblance to a young Matthew Broderick grows more pronounced with each passing role) who is so busy she cycles around the office and consumes beer and pizza at her desk as she works late into the night.   Jules is so busy, in fact, that she doesn’t even remember agreeing to taking on a senior intern, so she’s not too thrilled when Ben is given the role of her assistant.   Needless to say, after a cool start, the relationship between Ben and Jules gradually thaws, and before long he becomes indispensable in both her business and her personal life.

The reason The Intern loses momentum after a bright start is that everyone in the movie is so damn nice.   Ben’s a nice guy, and everyone warms to him, even though his tie and business suit and clean-shaven face in an environment of baggy jeans and stubble means that he sticks out like a sore thumb; Jules is a cool boss and a loving mother, even though she doesn’t spend as much time as she should with her horribly cute and precocious daughter and laid-back house-husband.   Rene Russo is nice – no baggage, willing to attend a funeral on a first date, and so on.   Ben’s fellow (youthful) interns are nice; they admire his vintage briefcase and the fact that, at seventy years of age, he can still get an erection.  After a while, all this niceness becomes a little overwhelming, and we begin to yearn for some conflict: something – anything – to temporarily upset the equilibrium.   Thankfully, writer-director Nancy Meyer belatedly hears our pleas, but, sadly, she comes up with a dark cloud in Jules’ home life that comes out of nowhere, doesn’t ring true for one second, and – incredibly – manages to slow things down even further so that a two-hour comedy – and, tell me, how many comedies can you name that benefit from being two hours long? – begins to feel like a boring Monday afternoon at the office.

(Reviewed 5th July 2016)

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