This fluffy new concoction from Nancy Meyers, which stars Robert De Niro as a septuagenarian intern at a successful fashion startup run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), is a light, perfectly passable entertainment, lifted beyond mediocrity by its two leads.
What does The Intern have to tell us about what might happen if a 70-year-old joined a burgeoning fashion startup? Not much, to be honest, but it isn’t really interested in that, despite the gimmicky setup. De Niro plays widower Ben, who needs something in his life to give him purpose, and joins Jules’ trendy fashion outfit as part of an “outreach” scheme. Jules is initially sceptical, of course, because she’s busy and doesn’t have time to coddle a bumbling old man; but, wouldn’t you know it, the wisdom of age and experience are actually useful commodities, even in today’s rush-rush tech world.
It took me a little while to warm to The Intern – it starts in a slightly obnoxious and cheesy fashion – but I did warm to it. De Niro brings class to what is, it has to be said, a pretty basic role. There’s a short speech in a hotel room near the end which gives him a chance to show what he can do, and it’s a welcome change of pace; for most of the film he’s simply required to be genial, which De Niro could play in his sleep. Credit too to Anne Hathaway, who rescues what initially appears to be a cloying, archetypal role into a rounded, even affecting, performance. Once Ben and Jules make friends and form a believable familial partnership, the film is pleasant enough company.
Meyers’ script is not laugh-out-loud funny, but does raise a few smiles, and possesses a willingness to treat its characters fairly. There’s also an agreeably feminist angle at play – Jules is a strong, independent character who is encouraged to be precisely that. The film is not patronising in its portrayal of this, although the script is a bit forthright on occasion.
The Intern doesn’t have a huge amount to say about the issues it touches on; it’s generally happy to let its two charismatic leads simply hang out together. It’s a li ttle cutesy at times, and overlong (there are also some fairly unremarkable supporting characters, including an outrageously flirtatious masseuse), but it’s not without its charms.