Genuinely funny and heartfelt, powered by strong charm and chemistry between Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway
Some may mix up this film with The Internship (2013), or compare it to The Devil Wears Prada (2006) due to the Hathaway and the office premise, but The Intern holds its own and it is far from being a generic comedy. Directed, written and co-produced by Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated, The Parent Trap), this charming, humourous and poignant, simple but progressive story of friendship between the old intern and the young boss may just be one of Meyers' finest films. But of course, it wouldn't have been as great without the two major actors.
In the modern business world today where e-commerce is booming, plenty companies are practically still startups with founders and CEO's who're generally younger, lack higher education and have no experience of maintaining a successful big business, and their own marriages. This is the new corporate world that 70-year-old retiree Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) enters after getting hired as a senior intern in a fast-growing online fashion site called AboutTheFit.com, run by its young, troubled workaholic founder and CEO, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Assigned to the reluctant Jules, she thought that Ben wouldn't be any help, but she would later find out that senior citizen's wisdom and friendship are exactly what she needs in this critical moment of her life where she's advised to hire a CEO to be her boss, while she's becoming estranged to her stay-at-home husband and daughter.
Although Ben knows nothing much about e-commerce, the widower does not taking this employment lightly as he seeks to be a part of something bigger and meaningful. He's a wise gentleman with old skool mentality, strong principles, classy fashion, just basically the nicest, sincerest and most helpful charming senior citizen. He says the right things all the time, and knows when to shut up. The generic young colleague characters and the older office masseuse Fiona (Rene Russo), who're not given proper development in the film, can't help but to like the nice, intelligent man. The audience, too, would find the character highly likable. The amazing thing is that two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather II, Raging Bull) didn't even need to do much acting as he seems to be just being himself apart from the few subtly cheesy expressions.
The film isn't really a rom-com, but De Niro's chemistry with fellow Oscar winner Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, Les Miserables) is so tight that at times I actually thought they were going to fall in love, especially the scene on the bed where Jules awkwardly asks Ben if he'd like to watch TV together. But thankfully, it's nothing more than like a father-daughter and senior advisor-young entrepreneur relationship. Between the two, Hathaway gave the more committed performance by providing her character a strong, believable personality as a young determined business woman whose overwhelming responsibilities are gradually devouring her life. Jules' occupied all the time and is extremely hard to work with, but she never acts like a bad person.
Sadly, the wooden acting by Anders Holm (Unexpected, The Interview) as Matt never once convinced that he's Jules' husband, which is the biggest downside of the film. However, the film boldly faces Jules' problems with morally acceptable solutions, although one of the issues isn't quite clearly addressed. But nonetheless, the film ends well with not too many cliches. Meyers' balanced tone between lightheartedness and heartfelt drama works brilliantly.
The Intern is a great comedy that just hits the right spot with lessons for the modern young professionals of today. While it does have blatant product placements and some moments that simply don't fit (like the weird boner scene), the film satisfies with a good mix of hilarious witty dialogues and engaging unpredictable situations. It may not be a perfect film indeed but how often do we get mature and genuinely funny comedies like this these days that are meaningful and not over the top (without even comparing to cheap and low comedies like Adam Sandler's and teen rom-coms)?
Malaysia censorship: F-bombs are muted and the scene at the funeral seems to be cut.
Second opinion: My girlfriend liked the film as well, saying that it's nice, heartwarming and inspiring.
Verdict: This is far from unanimous, but to me, it's one of the best comedies of the year.
Rating: 4 / 5
Running Time: 122 minutes
Writer-director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Reid Scott
Malaysia Release Date: 24 September 2015
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Waverly Films
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