Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THE INTERN (2015)

Written & Directed by Nancy Meyers



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA, September 26, 2015  5:45PM



"The Intern" is the latest sleek and tastefully designed romantic comedy by writer/director Nancy Meyers. Starting with "Private Benjamin", the fish-out-of-water Goldie Hawn hit comedy she co-wrote with Charles Shyer, her former husband back in 1980 to her directorial debut with the remake of "The Parent Trap" (which helped put the teenage Lindsay Lohan on the map), Meyers has used her gifts and hard-earned clout to make warm, engaging but overly glossy films that places strong female characters front and center. With "Baby Boom", "Something's Gotta Give", "What Women Want" and "It's Complicated", the director gave Oscar-winners, Diane Keaton, Helen Hunt and Meryl Streep the opportunity to play smart, funny and complicated mature women that don't turn up nearly often enough on the big screen.

"The Intern" sticks to this tradition with Anne Hathaway as a thirty-something, e-commerce business woman trying to juggle work and family. But the sixty-five year old Meyers is now interested in exploring how baby boomers fit in today's society and that comes in the form of Robert DeNiro playing a seventy-year old retired executive who decides to return to the work force. Because of the wide generation gap between them, neither believes they would have much in common but learn that age ain't nothing but a number.

Jules Ostin (Hathaway) has founded The Fit, an Internet fashion shopping site. The company is successful and growing fast which leaves her little time for her stay-at-home husband (Anders Holm) and their adorable young daughter (JoJo Kushner). Cameron (Andrew Rannells), head of operations, strongly recommends finding a seasoned CEO to help run the rapidly expanding company. Reluctantly she agrees to meet with potential candidates with the hope of being able to spend more time at home.

He also decides to hire a few seniors as interns for the company. Ben Whitaker (DeNiro), a recent widower has grown tired of spending his golden years trying to stay busy. He wants to get back to work and applies to be an intern at The Fit. Overqualified but happy to have a job, Ben is assigned to assist Jules.

Unable to recall agreeing to this plan, Jules is not comfortable around older people, as they remind her of the uncomfortable relationship with her mother (unseen but voiced by Mary Kay Place). She keeps her distance from Ben, finding him a bit too observant, which he is and quietly finds ways to make himself useful around the office.

Ben had been warned about Jules being a fire-breathing, dragon-lady, leaving us with the hope of seeing Ms Hathaway using what she had been a victim to in "The Devil Wears Prada". Alas, there is no Miranda Priestly type to be found. Jules lacks any edgy tension, remaining impossibly sweet most of the time despite the intense pressures of running her business while trying to be a good wife and mother. The actress doesn't have much to build on so her performance, while alluring and emotional, remains bland. It's nice to see the usually gruff DeNiro lay on the charm as the wise, good-natured retiree but we can feel him struggling to maintain this unnatural persona throughout.

Nancy Meyers' comedies are known for their visual delights with a long established focus on the world of the upwardly mobile, fabulously chic and flawlessly attractive crowd. This may sound strange but I think the cinematic counterpart to Ms Meyers in many ways is Woody Allen. Despite the many obvious differences, the most notable similarity is how each continuously enjoys creating these elegant worlds where we're supposed to be concerned about the great suffering and challenges of the well-to-do, struggling with the difficulties of their privileged lives. And people of color tend not to fit in their vision.

Now, I enjoyed "The Intern" (and to a lesser degree, Mr. Allen's recent "Irrational Man") and there's nothing necessarily wrong with holding on to this narrow worldview but film after film, it grows tedious, making it much harder to take their films seriously.

If Mr. Allen had made "The Intern", the director would have been compelled to create an unlikely romance between Jules and Ben. Ms Meyers appeared to be heading in that direction with a moment when the two, clad only in their pajamas, share a bed in a hotel room the evening before a meeting with a potential CEO in San Francisco. But the only action that occurs between them is Ben lending an ear and offering words of comfort and advice to a conflicted Jules. I'm sure that was her little joke on us where our long-held expectations in most rom-coms is to find our leads irresistibly attracted to one another. Thankfully, Ms Meyers is far more practical and finds a more age-appropriate romantic partner for Ben in the form of Rene Russo playing a masseuse that works for the company.

With "The Intern", Ms Meyers shares her thoughts and opinions on generational relationships, the current state of human interactions and what's lacking in the contemporary male with dazzling style and acute humor. You may find some of these ideas old-fashioned, elitist and overly melodramatic. But it does offer a lighthearted yet contemplative point of view which is quite refreshing in this day and age.