Ben Whittaker isn't exactly unhappy. He's retired with the means to do pretty much whatever he'd like, within reason. He's got a good relationship going with his son and his family. A nice home. Solid friends. Decent health.
But Ben Whittaker isn’t exactly happy, either. His loving, lifelong wife has been dead for three years now. And just existing, as he’s been doing since her passing, isn’t cutting it. He's a man who's always worked hard. Granted, he worked for 40 years in the manufacture of phone books, which pretty much makes his life's work obsolete at this point. But he still feels he has something to give. He's established a work ethic that's difficult to discard.
So when Ben spots a flyer for a "senior intern" position at a local Internet-based clothing company, he decides that might have potential. He knows very little about fashion, other than the three-button business suits he's used to regularly wearing. And he knows even less about the Internet. But working with young people and staying in motion holds a great deal of appeal.
After figuring out how to create an online introduction video and making it through a series of interviews, the nicely pressed 70-year-old finally gets the position. (Right before they tell him he really doesn't have to feel the need to wear a suit and tie. It’s a directive he’s going to ignore, though, because professional is professional to Ben. Old habits die hard.)
Our newly minted older intern is assigned to help the company's overstretched but extremely capable founder, Jules Ostin. But she doesn't really want him there and is only going along with the program to be a good example for the rest of the 200-person company. What Jules doesn't yet know, however, is that her company—and she herself, for that matter—is in need of someone like Ben.
Sometimes an Internet-age business and a completely modern entrepreneur can use a little old-school inspiration.
Sometimes both the young and old have holes to fill and something to give.
"I'm loyal and trustworthy," Ben says in his interview process. Indeed he is. And that's just the kind of stuff that makes a difference for Jules and her company of twenty- and thirtysomethings. As Ben starts helping out and forming friendships, he begins to inspire the young men around him to take better care of their appearance. (Hey, it’s an aspirational movie. Nobody said it had to be realistic!) He encourages people. They respond by putting more focus on solid relationships. His soft-spoken demeanor and wise observations eventually have a very calming and almost parental impact on Jules as well. In fact, Jules and Ben form a sort of loving, father-daughter bond that benefits them both.
Ben certainly admires Jules’ work ethic. She's the kind of boss who personally takes customer service calls to make sure her business delivers the excellence that it promises. And she rightly laments what the current societal age has done to young men. "Women went from girls to women," she says. "While men went from men to boys."
Jules and her husband, Matt, have marital difficulties. And though they really never fix the core of their problem, they do at least apologize for their mistakes (and an infidelity).
When Ben first meets the company's in-house masseuse, Fiona, she lightly massages his tight shoulders and lower back. He hastily grabs a newspaper to cover his unexpected arousal. Later she offers him an in-office foot rub that gives an accidental observer the impression that she's doing something more sexual to him. The two do start dating, and the film implies that they sleep together. (She’s over at his house in the morning.) We see a different female acquaintance kiss Ben on the lips.
Matt lies about his activities and is spotted kissing another woman, making it clear that he's having an extramarital affair. (He admits to it later.) A fully dressed Jules and Matt kiss and embrace while in bed. One of the guys Ben works with talks about having sex with his girlfriend's roommate.
Crude or Profane Language
One spoken f-word is joined by a mouthed one and a text message sporting the truncated phrase "I f-ed up." We hear two or three uses each of "a--" and "b--ch." "Oh my god" is spit out nearly 20 times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Both Ben and Jules have glasses of wine with dinner. They share a couple of beers and a pizza, and order wine during a flight. Jules and Matt drink vodka. Company employees do shots at a bar, and Jules gets drunk, eventually vomiting into a trash can. Ben spots Jules' driver drinking from a flask and steps in to take over the driving duties.
Other Negative Elements
Ben and several others break into a woman's house to delete an errant email.
At a time when every situation comedy and romantic comedy at the movie house seems to be the same kind of edgy and raunchy, uh, Trainwreck, you really start longing for something nice to laugh over and enjoy. And The Intern initially appears to fit the bill. After all, the idea of a distinguished and retired gentleman injecting his old-school suit-and-tie sensibilities into the working world of some T-shirt-clad Millennials has such an appealing ring to it.
The film starts out so well, too. Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway create the kind of likeable and earnest characters that just feel good to watch for a couple of hours. The pic raises questions about the place of family and business in a stretched-too-thin world. It glances at how our society has taken all the manliness and maturity out of men. And it even has De Niro's Ben sweetly salute the value of a wonderful marriage by way of him probing the pain of losing his longstanding mate.
Unfortunately, The Intern doesn't have enough experience to know where to go from there. It's quite frankly too PC-minded to suggest that anything in today’s or yesterday's societal choices are solidly good or bad. And so it never quite resolves its story. It tiptoes around its family issues and infidelities, throws in a few crude sight gags and dabbles in some strange silliness to cover up the awkwardness it seems to feel, and then slaps on a quick bow right before the closing credits.
So The Intern does some good work. But it never finishes the job.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Robert De Niro as Ben; Anne Hathaway as Jules; Rene Russo as Fiona; Anders Holm as Matt; Zack Pearlman as Davis; Andrew Rannells as Cameron; Adam DeVine as Jason; Linda Lavin as Patty
September 25, 2015
January 19, 2016