The last couple of movies I’d seen had been pretty heavy. Between the impending doom of “Everest” and the gut-wrenching helplessness of “Sicario,” I was ready for something light. Fluffy, even.
“The Intern” seemed the perfect fit. After all, it looked like a delightful buddy comedy, featuring a pair of polar opposites in Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro.
Well, the film had some funny moments, although they didn’t come from the film’s Oscar-winning leads.
What I had hoped would be a charming comedic romp that screamed “I am woman, hear me roar” instead left me feeling underwhelmed and a little depressed.
De Niro stars as Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old widower who has become listless and bored in his retirement, especially after the loss of his wife years earlier. He discovers an opportunity to be a senior intern for About the Fit, an online clothing company founded by Jules Ostin (Hathaway).
Jules does it all. She serves as the CEO but has a hand in every facet of her company, even the warehouse. She doesn’t want — and certainly doesn’t have time for — an intern, but begrudgingly she agrees to work with Ben.
Jules’ homelife is every bit as messy as her work can be. Her husband, Matt (Anders Holm), is a stay-at-home dad to their daughter, Paige (the adorable JoJo Kushner in her film debut). He had formerly worked in marketing, but he decided to become a full-time father when About the Fit took off.
The company has grown from a start-up in Jules’ kitchen to a hugely successful e-commerce site that now employs 220 people. Unfortunately, her investors want to bring in a more seasoned CEO. They include Jules in the decision-making process, but ultimately, they feel she’s too green to handle the job herself.
And thus lies the big, hairy, elephant in the room. Jules is meant to be celebrated. She’s a self-made success at 30-something. About the Fit was her brainchild, and she built it from the ground up. Yet, there’s a room of stuffy folks saying she’s not smart enough or tough enough to continue to lead her company.
Her employees say she’s difficult to work with or work for because of her attitude. Jules works hard and expects perfection of those around her.
But the character isn’t only picked apart for her work ethic. Matt handles most of Paige’s social activities. He talks about hanging out with the other mommies and all that. Those same mothers are the ones picking Jules apart because she’s not incredibly active in Paige’s life. As Jules puts it, “It’s 2015. Are we really still critical of working moms?”
So yeah, Jules has detractors coming at her from all sides. But here’s the problem. She isn’t the one who shuts them up. Ben is.
Yeah, the film is about Ben and his internship. But instead of this being a film where both he and Jules grow and learn from each other, it feels more like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and he’s Jules’ guardian angel.
He helps her decide what she’s going to do about the CEO-takeover, and he is also the one to tell those hateful mommies that Jules should be respected for what she’s accomplished. Really? She’s broken through the glass ceiling and has a successful company, but she can’t earn the respect of others without his help?
Maybe “Mary Poppins” would have been a better example. Ben is Mary, in case you hadn’t figured it out. He pops into Jules’ life to set her on the right path. Obviously, her life would have just crumbled without him. The mommies wouldn’t play with, er, respect her, and just like Mr. Banks, she needed to be shown how to get ahead at her job.
By the way, once he’s helped Jules, he appears to go back to the life of retirement as if his mission in life completed. Or maybe his mission was the kind-of-inappropriate and way awkward relationship with About the Fit in-house masseuse, Fiona (Rene Russo).
Yes, the company has an in-house masseuse. That’s enough to demonstrate Jules is doing a bang-up job — and I want to work there.
Luckily, amidst the above issues, the movie does have some funny moments, courtesy of Ben’s coworkers. Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman and Jason Orley thankfully bring their comedic talents to the screen as three guys who don’t really have it all together. Ben’s “old-school” style helps them learn how to dress AND impress.
The trio are secondary standouts in an overall talented cast. De Niro is charming, and Hathaway’s Jules is infuriating, at times, but likable.
Bottom line: Director-writer Nancy Meyers has created a film that doesn’t really work. I can’t get the antiquated misogynistic, paternalistic norms out of my head. It reeks of traditional values. Truly reeks.
I’m far from a feminist, but this film rattles my cage. It rings false to me as a modern woman, or rather someone who didn’t deal with many issues that Meyers and peers did. In no way though am I saying that glass ceilings, wage inequality and workplace discrimination/harassment don’t exist. They doexist. However, it’s impossible to argue against any of those things while adopting the language of the oppressor, rather than the oppressed.
If none of those things bother you, maybe this movie is for you. It’s formulaic enough to conceal this interpretation. I just hope you laugh more than I did.