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The Intern

I am sorry to be posting about The Intern so long after its opening because it really is a nice piece of light entertainment with some good comments on the benefit of experience in the marketplace, ageism and work, workaholism and family, women in the workplace, and attitudes toward work itself that make it a very good film for discussion. Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, a no-nonsense fashion designer with good instincts who has created her own online fashion company called “About the Fit” and moved it to the size that the company needs to decide whether to hire a CEO from outside or not. Tensions arise from Ostin’s family commitments, her work commitments, her self-evaluation, and her employee relations that create crises small and large, which need to be resolved. Enter Robert DeNiro as Ben Whittaker, a retired executive, who has grown bored with retirement. Whittaker applies for an internship at “About the Fit”, is hired, and after a brief time becomes Jules’s trusted assistant. Whittaker employees a solid work ethic, street smarts based on years of experience and simply patient, caring eyes and ears to solve the problems he can, give advice where appropriate and generally create the happy ending the film needed.

De Niro performs better than ever in a comic role and Hathaway, who plays this sort of movie as well as anyone, is every bit his equal. While some of the supporting cast perform admirably, the difference is apparent between them and the Academy Award winners in the starring roles. Most of the acting miscues are due to miscasting and shallow characterization, though, and the exception to this rule is Rene Russo. Russo has been in two good films in a row (this one and last year’s completely unappreciated Nightcrawler), playing polar opposite characters, and is superb as Fiona, the company’s masseuse who is Ben’s love interest.

There are a lot of moving pieces in this plot, which keeps the development of minor characters to a minimum, but most of the pieces work. A silly, slapstick break-in of Jules’s mother’s house to delete an email is the exception that proves the rule. The plot points allow for the exploration of the variety of work-related themes we listed above, and that makes the film worth the length (over two hours, a long time for a comedy). Nancy Meyers, the film’s director and writer, is a master of this genre; she has The Parent Trap and Something’s Gotta Give to her credit.

The Intern is a “modern” comedy in every way. Some of its advice will make the Christian cringe; some of the values simply taken for granted will not be those of a follower of Jesus. Overall, though, the film is a nice night out, or a nice night in front of the video monitor, and that is rare nowadays for comedies.

Drew Trotter

November 12, 2015

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