“Intern” Delivers Exactly What You Expect

“Intern” Delivers Exactly What You Expect

I knew exactly what to expect with Nancy Myers’ The Intern and while there can be some comfort in having your expectations met (the idea they might be exceeded should never enter your mind with a movie of this sort), I couldn’t help but hope for some out of left field spanner to be thrown into the works of this gentle, predictable production.

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If you’ve seen the trailer, (I’d be surprised if you haven’t as the ad campaign has been more akin to an assault rather than a method of just getting the word out) then you pretty much know the set up and resolution.  Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a recent widower who’s having trouble filling the hours in the day. What with being retired and having no one to share this time with, he enrolls in a senior intern program and is assigned to an on-line fashion company.  He’s to assist the brains behind this enterprise Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), a Type-A personality who’s very good at her job but could use some help in the area of time management and setting priorities. She’s not spending enough time with her young daughter and stay-at-home husband and there’s a board of directors nipping at her heels, suggesting a more experienced CEO take the reins of her company.

What with Ben serving initially as her driver and ultimately as her confidante and life coach, he’s able to get some insight on both her personal and private affairs and of course, offer some gentle guidance along the way.  That he’s allowed to start a potential relationship with Fiona (Rene Russo) the company masseuse is a perk he’s truly earned after all of the hand-holding he has to do along the way.

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There’s nothing necessarily wrong with The Intern other than the fact that it’s predictable and at over two hours overstays its welcome by about 20 minutes. (Look, as a viewer, if I know where we’re headed, can we get there quickly please?) Being constructed as it is, my mind couldn’t help but wander a bit and I was struck with the notion that had someone more likable been cast as Jules, I might have enjoyed the film more.

Over the years, Hathaway has developed a persona of insincerity that has now begun to translate on screen.  Her shameless campaigning for the Oscar for Les Miserables, and her calculated acceptance speech when she won the award has resulted in a distance growing between her and her audience.  Only the fact that she is such a good actress – her performances in The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar are remarkable – keeps her in play.  However, we want who we see on screen to be either embraceable or for them to present themselves as they are without apology.  Hathaway is incapable of the former and lacks the nerve to do the later and as a result will always be far too remote to pull off a role like the one she’s been handed here.

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As for De Niro…what can you say?  With the sort of dramatic, groundbreaking roles he had early in his career, he set a standard for himself and raised our expectations so high that there was no way he’d be able to sustain either of them.  Much like Brando, he’s searched for roles he could make his own but has rarely been able to find any to match his talent or keep his interest.  Over the past 15 years we’ve seen an actor eager and willing to expand his repertoire, resulting in just as many failures (The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle) as successes (Stone). His work in “The Intern” falls somewhere in the middle, a place De Niro has never been comfortable with and one that’s a bit uncomfortable to witness.

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