A beautiful, moving, feel-good film.
The Intern tells the charming story of 70 year old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), as he becomes a senior intern at Jules Ostin’s (Anne Hathaway) successful fashion company. Although De Niro has been criticised for some questionable roles in his more recent film career, he couldn’t be more suited to the role of the delightfully charming Whittaker here. De Niro’s character is eager for a new challenge in his retirement, and is successfully hired to the position of Jules’ assistant. Although the duo are distant at first, and Jules makes it clear that she is quite capable on her own, a beautiful friendship eventually blossoms.
The film successfully focuses on the idea of young verses old, and the generational differences are evident throughout. Ben’s whole work ethic from his methods right down to his clothing is traditional in the sense that at work you dress for the role and you go the extra mile to get the job done. Everything from his manners to his enthusiasm for his job is so refreshing in an age where people live for the weekend and go to work in the morning with only the thought of leaving in their heads.
Another issue touched on by the film is social media. This message can become repetitive with various campaigns and news pieces always encouraging people to look up from their phones and live in the moment. To an extent this is a valid message, but at the same time it cannot be denied that the power of social media and the internet is definitely something to be praised. There is a comedic element to this however, as Jules is sending an email, skyping her mum and receiving incoming calls all at once. It is a truly accurate portrayal of modern life, and for once we see the humorous side to this from Ben’s perspective.
As an outsider, Hathaway’s character in such a film could be quite predictable as a bossy, strict and over the top business woman. However the character created for her is extremely well suited to both Hathaway and to the film. As the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that Jules is a complicated character, juggling many different aspects of her life all to fit her jam packed schedule. Although she appears to be in control at the beginning of the film, it becomes clear that she has worries, stresses and family issues just as everyone does. It is because she is not portrayed as the mean boss that she is so easy to empathise with her in the film.
Without putting too much of a feminist spin on the film, it does undoubtedly raise ideas of women in authoritative roles. This film in no way suggests that the main message of the film is a feminist one, but Jules is certainly portrayed as a powerful woman who is evidently capable in a role that some would traditionally see as appropriate for a man, especially in Ben’s generation. However the most frustrating aspect of this is a decision Jules makes at the end of the film which is completely inconsistent with her strong feminine character, and this unfortunately lessens the film’s overall merit.
Initially Ben is a friendly observer, but he instinctively takes on a somewhat paternal role to help Jules in her hectic lifestyle. This is one of the themes raised in the film of parent and child relationships. Although The Intern appears to be some kind of romantic comedy (without any real romance) there are some truly moving moments in the film where Ben is the only person Jules has to turn to in a difficult and truly devastating situation. He is the father that she needs the lean on, and the friend that she needs support from. Although this is not a performance that will win awards, De Niro is incredibly suited to this role; a charming, caring, and truly loveable character. He could not have embodied the personality of the character any better.
Despite the fact that the film did raise some interesting themes, it certainly is not something that needs to be looked in to too deeply. The Intern is ultimately a harmless, charming and moving comedy which tells the story of a unique friendship. It makes you laugh and cry and will leave you feeling uplifted and satisfied.
The Intern (2015), directed by Nancy Meyers, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Certificate 12A.