This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th September 2015
It’s a sad fact that casting Robert De Niro in a starring role nowadays does not guarantee a great film. With the exception of Limitless and Silver Linings Playbook, the last decade has seen the one-time legend in plenty of duff, rent-paying parts.
So teaming him up with the polarising Anne Hathaway (Disclosure: I like her) in a purported comedy about a retired businessman who goes to work for a young female entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily bode well.
Thankfully, under the pen and rein of long-time Hollywood writer and director, Nancy Meyers, The Intern proves to be a surprisingly endearing, if unsubstantial, tale.
Ben Whittaker is a widower of 70, whose days have been filled with tai chi, language classes and travelling to fill the void left by his departed wife. He enters the Senior Intern programme at a hugely successful internet start-up run by the harried but pleasant Jules Ostin. She thinks she doesn’t need his help, but he’s got heaps to teach all the other young people, so Ben is rapidly subsumed into the business and eventually becomes Jules’ right-hand man.
Meyers does interpersonal truths well but always with a light touch, as in The Holiday, It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give – each a prime example of her knack for writing strong female roles and providing something for the more mature actor. The capacity for “odd couple” comedy here is not exploited (though the script delivers a few Laugh-Out-Louds) but De Niro and Hathaway’s chemistry is sweet, and although the plot’s conflict exists outside of their relationship, we get plenty of scenes where two very nice people speak realistic, heartfelt lines about true issues.
Neither mould-breaking nor objectionable, rather like its titular character, The Intern doesn’t try too hard and thus succeeds.