"The Intern may well make you laugh, but it's handling of intended 'zeitgeist topics' is muddled at best"
Whilst watching The Intern it might cross your mind that writer, director, producer Nancy Meyers (The Parent Trap, What Women Want and Private Benjamin) seems to have made a list of some of the most irksome social stereotypes and decided to defy each of them through a cute 'fish out of water' comedy. Whilst there are certainly some funny moments in this film it has the uncomfortable intention of trying to be both socially defining and deeply endearing.
The Intern opens with Academy Award Winner Robert De Niro stating Freud's pithy conjecture, 'Love and work, work and love. That's all there is' which should give you some clue as to what is to come and what isn't going to be deviated from.
De Niro plays widower, septuagenarian and snappy-suit-wearer Ben Whittaker, who's ready to get 'back in action'. He replies to a job advert for a booming internet startup company that's attached to an outdoor bulletin board in Brooklyn. The only tweeting he knows about is that from local birds and as such he's probably not best suited for life in the ecommerce fast lane. But as tired city-workers slump around you in the cinema Whittaker will display a level of stamina, charm, erudition and enthusiasm men half his age and twice his expresso consumption will envy. Anyone who's ever counted to a thousand whilst giving an elderly relative computer advice may indeed want to know what his secret is. Meyers certainly scores anti-ageism points with this.
Whittaker's assigned to Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), the perfectionist, mercurial, misunderstood and swamped founder of About The Fit (AFT). In her steely focus and inexplicable, unquestioned quirks she seems to contain elements of Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada. In her frazzled mistakes and unravelling life she also seems to resemble Andy Sachs. Ostin initially resists Whittaker as she 'isn't great with older people,' but warms to his assiduous fatherly efforts as her challenges unfold. Ostin's husband is a stay-at-home-dad who seems to be perfect in many things apart from the most basic and necessary of things. Additionally despite the fact that she built an exploding company that has met its business goals 7 times faster than what were initially predicted she's been told she needs to get a CEO for her company. This keeps Ostin in waterproof mascara and Whittaker in tear-soaked handkerchiefs for much of the latter part of the film. Whittaker frequently provides praise and understanding for Ostin's efforts as what others see as Ostin's flaws he sees as her assets. He understandably admires her considerable achievements. But as you reach the end of the film you do begin to wonder what on earth has happened to the feminist message. Even Whittaker says 'I hate to be the feminist here' as he counsels a confessional Ostin who's in a meltdown over her fear of a lonely life and even lonelier death.
As we reach the end of the film The Intern closes with a mawkish and facile ending that may leave the average modern woman with a sickly taste in her mouth if she has been laughing along with the saccharine up to that point in order to root for Ostin. Even if Meyers's message is that women have now evolved beyond the need to hurl their crackberries at their offending husbands who have just committed the unthinkable, the speed at which the once portrayed difficult and demanding Ostin not just acquiesces to the poor state of her marriage, but achieves a level of brisk forgiveness only a lama could lay claim to, smacks of Hollywood's obsession for quick and easy endings. The Intern may well make you laugh, but it's handling of intended 'zeitgeist topics' is muddled at best.