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The Intern fails to do its job

Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker in a scene from <em>The Intern</em>. Associated Press/Photo by Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros. Pictures

<em>The Intern</em> fails to do its job

Writer/director Nancy Meyers seems to craft her movies to fit the definition of “feel good.” In the world made for her movies, from It’s Complicated to The Holiday, things might not always go right (for women, mainly) but somehow everything always works out.

Often this formula works surprisingly well. What female moviegoer doesn’t occasionally enjoy a story about a strong, capable woman (of diverse age) who overcomes the odds to have a happy and emotionally satisfying life? So I had high hopes for The Intern, despite the flimsy premise of 70-year-old Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) becoming best friends with his young boss, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

For an evening at home with a DVD, the movie would be enjoyable. It squeezes every possible laugh out of jokes about old age and De Niro gamely mugs for the camera on a regular basis. The veteran actor is likable as the retired widower looking for a second wind in life by taking an internship at a fashion e-commerce company (as unlikely as that is). And the movie tries hard to make his idealization of Jules work, but it just doesn’t.

The problem might be the decision to cast Hathaway as Jules, who runs her own company with more than 200 employees, is married, and has a precocious daughter. Jules is the definition of someone who “has it all.” Like a typical Meyers heroine, she is written as a woman who should be in mid-life, but the very young-looking Hathaway, while likable, comes across as someone who stumbled into her success rather than earned it. So when she gets her “all” challenged—her ability to run her own company questioned and her husband not quite as supportive as he appears—it seems less like a tragedy and more like growing up and learning about the give-and-take of setting priorities.

And that is an entirely different story from the one about the old guy who takes an internship just to get out of the house. The friendship of the two main characters is supposed to make the process of overcoming these very different challenges worth watching, but the chemistry is off and so is the movie’s theme. This might be a movie about starting over or owning your dreams, or it might be a romance or the fan sequel to The Devil Wears Prada. Instead, it hovers somewhere in the middle and makes jokes involving suggestive content and language that earned its PG-13 rating.

Alicia M. Cohn Alicia is a former WORLD contributor.

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