'The Intern' wants to eat its cake and have it too

Friday , September 25, 2015 - 12:00 AM8 comments

By RICH BONADUCE
Standard-Examiner correspondent

No one is safe as writer/director Nancy Meyers delivers yet another middling movie filled with mixed messages, focusing on the relationship between driven thirty-something Jules (Anne Hathaway) and mannerly senior Ben (Robert De Niro) who interns at her successful company.

After an encouraging set up involving 70-year-old Ben creating a video application for a senior Internship at an online business run by Jules, “The Intern” implodes with a patronizing first act filled with the usual tropes regarding the older generation not getting technology, and the younger generation not getting … well, pretty much anything other than technology. That’s a shame, since the heartfelt story of widower Ben’s life probably sounds achingly familiar to the senior members of the audience. But rather than explore that, we get supposedly powerful women who can’t handle anything without Ben’s calming presence, young men who can’t manage their lives without Ben’s sage advice, and Ben organizing wacky shenanigans.

Among its various promises, both young and old learning from each other doesn’t really happen. Oh, the young pick up on Ben’s every note, from his clothes and briefcase to his work ethic and outlook. But at best, Ben learns to text and get a girlfriend in the form of company massage therapist Fiona (Rene Russo).

Ben is a godsend with wells of experience and chivalrous notions of generations past while ignoring any other aspects of his generation that were more “Mad Men” than modern man. When Jules finds out that Ben used to work in the very building in which he now interns (he used to oversee making now-obsolete phone books, no less), no one mentions that women probably weren’t even allowed on the floor back in his day. When his younger counterparts ask about his handkerchief, Ben responds that women cry — and you want be there to help them when they do. Chivalry is not dead; it’s just based on sexism. It’s this sort of mentality that permeates “The Intern.” But if it whitewashes the older generation while belittling the younger one, it also undermines women most of the time.

Russo’s Fiona is every masseuse stereotype you know, giving Ben a gluteal rub down on their first meeting that elicits juvenile responses from everyone around her; but at least it leads to her and Ben dating. Luckily he came along to fill that hole in her life.

Jules’ Ivy-league educated assistant Becky (Christina Scherer) is a befuddled employee, who breaks down at her desk when Ben is assigned to help manage her workflow (she’s so messy!). Luckily, Ben is also there to guide clueless Jason (Adam DeVine) to go comfort her in the hour of vulnerability, and good thing too; she was mad at Jason for sleeping with her roommate!

Meanwhile when uber-woman Jules is informed that the investors want a male CEO to run her company, she crumbles at the news. But she is under a lot of pressure; she just found out that her house-husband Matt (Anders Holm) is cheating on her in-between chores and parenting their daughter basically on his own, since Jules is so busy bringing home a substantial amount of bacon.

She eventually confides in Ben that her worry is that they’ll divorce and Matt will easily remarry while she’ll die alone. Yes, Jules is worried that she’ll never find a man while being an educated young woman who looks like Anne Hathaway and runs her own highly successful business ... because she’s bossy, I guess. And doesn’t every woman need a man, anyway? Even the fellow senior-intern who temporarily takes over chauffeur duties for Ben is a flustered woman who can’t drive. Then again, Jules doesn’t even have a driver’s license! Finally, the playground moms are unpleasant jerks who can’t stand a woman who works or a man who babysits. Are we feeling empowered yet, ladies?

No fear, Ben is here! He takes care of all of these problems while being the ultimate employee — of course he can arrive before the boss and leave only when she does to drive her home, and be available at the drop of a hat to pick up coffee, take the kids to school, or make sure everyone gets home safely after happy hour — as he says, he has no life of his own.

If this is what a feminist looks like, I’ll watch something else.

REVIEW

  • THE FILM: ’The Intern’
  • CRITIC RATING: ** stars
  • STARRING: Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway, Adam DeVine, Christina Scherer, Rene Russo.
  • BEHIND THE SCENES: This is also Anne Hathaway's first movie with De Niro. Apparently Tina Fey was originally starring as Jules, then Reese Witherspoon was cast, and when she dropped out and Hathaway replaced her.
  • PLAYING: Syracuse 6, Layton Hills 9, Megaplex 13, Cinemark Farmington, Layton Tinseltown, Newgate Tinseltown, Megaplex 14, Walker 8, North Ogden 6.
  • MPAA RATING: Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language. 121 minutes. 

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