Movie review: ‘The Intern’

I haven’t made a habit of reviewing recent movies, but today marks the second recent Robert De Niro film that I’m looking at. First I looked at “Dirty Grandpa” (click here for my review), but in a 180-degree turn I found him completely excellent yet again and this time in “The Intern” with Anne Hathaway. I don’t have many great things to say about the film except for the co-stars’ performances (hopefully you’ll keep reading and find out what I have to say), but “The Intern” is just OK and won’t insult your intelligence. Well, at least very much – and that’s saying a lot today.

‘The Intern’
(2015; 121 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Nancy Meyers and starring Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway and Rene Russo)

HE SHOWS EXPERIENCE IS MORE THAN AGE

I’ve always been impressed with the talent of great actors. Gene Hackman is one who jumps immediately to mind (try “The French Connection” – click here for my review), but one who is even better as both stand at the pinnacle of the acting profession is Robert De Niro. He just doesn’t seem to ever do a bad job. He’s always on the mark and his work spans every genre. And he doesn’t disappoint in the disappointing “The Intern” from last year.

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I just reviewed his great, profanity-laced work in the fall-down funny “Dirty Grandpa” (he was the grandpa and he was really dirty), but when I watching him in “The Intern” quickly reminded me just how easy he makes acting appear. In “The Intern,” De Niro is simply his character. He doesn’t just immerse himself in the character, he becomes it. De Niro is so smooth that it is easy to forget that what he’s doing is very difficult – kind of like how easy downhill skiing appears before you get out on the slope and see for yourself.

Plus, Anne Hathaway does a great job in keeping up with De Niro in “The Intern” as she continues to chart what will be a legendary career in film (although I still do see too much of the “The Princess Diaries” in her from all those repeated showings I saw when our daughter was younger). It’s not easy being cast opposite De Niro and, I’d say, it’s intimidating to work with such a member of the acting elite. However, Hathaway is solid here, although the tone and tenor of the film ultimately let her down.

Going into “The Intern,” you’d think it was going to be geezerville comes to an Internet company with De Niro winning over the kids. Well, he does, but “The Intern” spins out initially as a cleverly disguised, badly made chick-flick. And this one fails in the story at all levels and can in no way match classic chick-flicks like “You’ve Got Mail” (click here for my review) or “While You Were Sleeping” (click here for my review).

In brief, “The Intern” is the story of a 70-year-old widower who applies for a job as a “senior intern” at this online clothing company owned by a young woman. He’s assigned to be her assistant and then becomes the hit of the company. It evolves into him becoming more and more involved in both her personal life as well as a guiding influence on a big business decision. In the end, “The Intern” stumbles in the knee-deep treacle of bad writing and bad directing that the talents of two great actors cannot overcome.

The first half of the film is practically flawless – except that everyone is perfect. Their homes are perfect; they are perfectly dressed (except for the youngest who have to look rumpled as part of their character); and even the outside of a house is perfect – as is the darling little daughter of Hathaway. However, “You’ve Got Mail” had the same sin, but managed to overcome it. “The Intern” manages to fall face-first into it. And we both know that the “it” is.

In the end everything turns out great (as all feel-good films should), but you’re not going to keep any good feeling very long. Sad, since it could have been so much better – especially with another, competent director at the helm.

Now, here is a look at the three headliners:

  • I believe I’ve written enough superlatives about two-time Oscar winner De Niro, but here are a few more … I do like him in drama from “The Deer Hunter” to “Heat” (click here for my review), but he’s also comfortable in comedy like “Meet the Parents.” It’s just amazing how he becomes the character, or, rather, how the character becomes him. In “The Intern,” he’s “Ben Whittaker” and had a wonderful career and then his wife died. You see this man before you in “The Intern” and De Niro defines that man. No other actor would do. You just can’t miss with De Niro. In addition to his two Oscars, he’s been nominated five times – including for “The Godfather: Part II” (one of my all-time favs).
  • An Oscar winner, too, Hathaway, too, becomes her character “Jules Ostin.” You just couldn’t imagine any other actor playing this part. Hathaway knows how to have presence on camera and knows how to command your attention. She makes up for crass stupidities such as her character riding a bicycle in the office (it’s supposed to show how quirky this non-traditional executive is) simply by moving on to the next scene and making it better than the one before. She’s smooth, sophisticated but manages to be at home anywhere from the office to the shipping center to home (all in all just too perfect, as I’ve already written). She won her Oscar for “Les Misérables” and was nominated for “Rachel Getting Married.”
  • My, how far on the big-screen sexy quotient has Rene Russo fallen. In the 17 years since the remake of “The Thomas Crown Affair,” where she did nude scenes and she and Pierce Brosnan simply sizzled (click here for my review), she’s now become the girlfriend of a 70-year-old as she plays “Fiona,” the company’s massage therapist. Russo is competent here, but doesn’t have too much to work with. Still, I like seeing her get decent parts but none will be better than her work in the underrated comedy “Big Trouble” (click here for my review) that I enjoy so completely.

As for the supporting cast of “The Intern” … well, they’re competent but in no way memorable. A young(er) Jonah Hill managed to elevate a small spot in the stoner film “Grandma’s Boy” (click here for my review), but none of the “gang” here jumps out at you. From Hathaway’s lieutenant to the other interns, there’s really nothing special going on here.

However, I will take time to bring out one bit of criticism for one supporting actor. Anders Holm plays Hathaway’s husband “Matt.” He’s cheating on her, but I don’t know where it comes from. Not only does Holm need a couple of acting lessons, he could also use a shot of testosterone. He’s such a wimp it’s difficult to believe that he’d have the courage to cheat on his wife and his lack of discernable ability reflects that he must have been owed a big favor by the casting director here. In any case, the only film I’ve seen that he’s done is “The Interview” and I couldn’t even tell you what scene he was in (since it must have only been one).

Still, most of my criticism goes to director Nancy Meyers. She does a horrible job with the talent and creative script she had to work with. Well, the script kind of falls flat at the midway point, but a good director could have saved it. Meyers, whose Oscar nomination is for being part of a writing team on “Private Benjamin” (wasn’t that filmed in black-and-white?), ought to turn in her Directors Guild of America card because of this film. What can I say? Meyers fails at every level.

OK, so there you have it. “The Intern” isn’t a good film and is a horrible example of the director’s art, but it is mostly watchable – although you’ll find it easy to take a bathroom break and tell the person you’re watching it with, “don’t bother to pause it.”

The Intern” was a middle-of-the-road flick at the box office as it came in 41st in 2015 with $75.7 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The film I liked best from 2015 was the second-best (“Jurassic World” – click here for my review) and the No. 1 was, of course, “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” at nearly $1 billion ($936.7 million to be exact). At least “The Intern” came in ahead of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” which is a prime example of why a sequel is usually uninspired, lacks creativity and is just a knock-off where somene tries to make a buck with nothing.

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • The Intern” is the first time Meyers and De Niro have worked together. I hope for his sake it’s the last.
  • Good outcome with almost-castings: Jack Nicholson was approached by Meyers to play “Ben” (I guess he could see how bad she is); and Reese Witherspoon was “Jules” but dropped out. I don’t care why, but I can’t see her in this role. Hathaway is simply perfect. Witherspoon would have been simply the wrong choice.
  • An interesting possibility: Tina Fey was considered for Hathaway’s spot … and that’s not as stupid as Witherspoon.
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “In Anne Hathaway‘s opening scene, she’s filling an order over the phone for a bride named “Rachel.” This recalls the title of her earlier film Rachel Getting Married (2008), where she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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