Flawed ‘Intern’ Gets by on Charm

The_Intern_PosterAh, September. You wonderful buffer between summer blockbusters and Oscar season…

“The Intern” stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway and is written and directed by Nancy Meyers. When retirement proves to be too boring for 70-year-old Ben Whittaker (De Niro), he enrolls in a senior internship program at an internet fashion company led by Jules Ostin (Hathaway). Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, and Anders Holm co-star.

September usually contains two types of movies: trash that couldn’t fit into January and August (“The Transporter Refueled”) and decent films that still aren’t quite good enough to be worthy of Oscar season (“Black Mass,” even if Depp will get his nod). “The Intern” falls into the latter category, as it is a flawed but charming little film that never tries to be more than it is not.

Anne Hathaway makes everything she’s in better, that’s long established (if you don’t believe me try watching “Brides Wars” or “Les Misérables” and skip over her scenes and tell me with a straight face those movies are enjoyable). Meanwhile it’s been a while since Robert De Niro actually tried to do some serious acting (one could argue he has given two dedicated performances the past 10 years). So they may seem like an odd pairing, but their abstract chemistry is what makes “The Intern” work.

There are a few routes this film could have taken, and had it chosen those paths it would have been a conventional feel-good story, likely featuring a hardened boss who has to continuously teach her technology challenged senior citizen intern about the modern world. But writer/director Meyers instead choses to go an alternative route, still making De Niro’s character a fish-out-of-water, but never panders us or tries to force “ha! He’s old, get it?!” jokes down our throats. And instead of starting out like Sandra Bullock’s unlikable boss in “The Proposal,” Hathaway is just a busybody who we like from the get-go, which makes her easier for the audience to root for and relate to.

The film has its share of chuckle moments, and two laugh-out-loud gags including a fantastic sequence where De Niro and a group of other interns break into a house and steal a computer, but mostly the film skates by on its charm. Like I said, Hathaway is likable no matter what, but De Niro has this sense of optimism about him that is just infectious, and it puts you in a happy mood right out the gate.

Now I have to list the film’s flaws, both because that’s part of the job of movie reviewing and because I am a cynical person by nature. The film tries to force conflict into random segments just for the sake of having conflict, and all it does is add unnecessary time to the film’s length, which brings me to my biggest problem with the film.

Although I was never bored, the film isn’t paced well. After that brilliant robbery scene I figured the film had covered all the bases it needed to and would begin to wrap up; except that was only around the halfway point of the film (the running time is two hours). There are numerous points, in fact, that I thought the film would begin to end, only to have it introduce new plotlines. It isn’t overindulgence for ego sake like a Peter Jackson film, but it does stop the film from being breezy.

“The Intern” is pretty much exactly what you would expect to get based on the trailer, director, cast and/or plot, and that’s ok. It is flawed, sure, but those flaws are for the most part outweighed by dedicated work from Hathaway, De Niro and company. It’s a good date movie for all ages, and a nice buffer film as we enter the Fall Movie Season.

Critics Rating: 6/10



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