Director: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo
Running Time: 121 minutes
Early in The Intern, Nancy Meyers’ workplace comedy drama, Anne Hathaway’s beleaguered business executive says to septuagenarian intern Robert DeNiro, “I’m glad you see the humour in this.” “It’d be hard not to” comes the wry and knowing reply. Unfortunately, the film’s evident satisfaction with its stale and confining premise is not shared by the viewer.
Uplifting in the most saccharine sense of the word, The Intern tells the story of Ben (DeNiro), a retired 70 year old man who seeks to rediscover some sense of utility through a conveniently-advertised ‘senior intern’ programme. He shortly gets work at Jules Ostin’s (Hathaway) recently successful internet start-up company and finds his unique brand of antiquated charm beginning to change Jules’ life for the better. Who knew?
Perhaps the most obvious issue to be taken with The Intern is the glaring disjuncture between its stars and the material. DeNiro predictably isn’t in first gear here (realistically more like fifth), but has enough natural charisma to justify his time on screen. The same can be said of Hathaway, although she is even worse-served by the clunky and ultimately banal script. Now, there are occasions where big-name casting can help lift otherwise insipid cinema fare. This is no such occasion. At one point, Ben is seen talking into a mirror, geeing himself up for a big day at work. Robert DeNiro is a man who has created two of the most iconic and remembered moments in cinema by merely talking into a mirror. This apparent call-back to his early glory only serves as a glib and disappointing reminder of just what a waste of talent we are watching.
The supporting cast is a mixed bag; Adam DeVine is suitably annoying. Andrew Rannells (the acerbic gay ex-boyfriend Elijah from Girls) is a nice addition, albeit a role suffering from the same prohibitively bland script as the others. The entire film is underscored by an abrasively cheerful elevator-music soundtrack, diminishing whatever dramatic charm could have otherwise found its way to the surface. In the end, though, the chief problem with the film is simply a lack of positives. It isn’t funny enough for a comedy; the plot is both predictable and sickly-sweet. There is also a problematic aspect with regards to Ben’s love interest. Or, in this case, lust interest. A painfully un-funny scene involving an office massage and an unwanted erection (oh, what unplumbed comic depths they found) is simply uncomfortable as the decades-older DeNiro plays coy.
For a film so intent on being uplifting, The Intern is a thoroughly unenjoyable experience. Inoffensive certainly, and perhaps even watchable, but there is an damning pointlessness to it. Spend your money elsewhere. Watch a double bill of Taxi Driver and Rachel Getting Married. I just cannot conjure a good reason why anyone should go and see this film.