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Nancy Meyers, the director of The Intern has made films like The Parent Trap, What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday. This indicates something noteworthy – that Meyers makes films that are the equivalent of bakery items. They’re all fluffy and likable, with a general air of niceness attached to them. And you forget about them the moment you walk out.
Life is full of problems, but when these problems are projected in a cute New York autumn weather they make you look at them with a different perspective, and the cute people facing these problems become kind of likable.
This is Meyer’s secret formula for successful feel good filmmaking. The Intern follows the formula almost to a fault – it’s a cute little movie with cute little problems faced by cute little people.
Jules (Anne Hathaway) runs a Flipkart-like ecommerce company that sells clothes and other fashion accessories. She’s the typical successful workaholic, married to a really nice guy (Anders Holm) and turning her little startup into a massively successful, sprawling huge company in just a couple of years. In fact she works so hard and the company is so successful the investors begin to think the formula may crash one day, and think of replacing her with a male CEO. How will Jules deal with this issue? In walks her new intern – the 70-year-old Ben (De Niro), a retired widower looking to pass his time with a job, who seems to have the answers.
If you’re looking for something realistic, forget about it. This is breezy comedy with just that touch of light drama, which means it’s got scenarios contrived beyond belief. Conveniently Ben has years of experience in work culture, running a company, maintaining a cute little marriage, and dealing with life’s various bouncers.
He’s the father figure she never had, and she renders the companionship he has been desperately looking for. And with Hathaway and De Niro going back and forth with the aforementioned elements, it’s cuteness overload. Fortunately there’s no hint of forced romance between the two, it’s been a while since the two leads of opposite sexes in a Hollywood movie were ‘just friends’.
The dramatics and schmaltz are luckily kept to a minimum even though some of the conflicts in the film approach soap opera levels. There are strange narrative deviations – at one point Ben and other interns in the office break and enter a house to steal a computer. Meyers tries extra hard to make us laugh with such scenes but they come across as awkward than funny.
There is of course some genuinely funny stuff – Ben from yesteryear struggling to adjust to new technology is mined for comedy. There are also inconsistencies, like Ben is suddenly seen using technology like iPhones like a pro. But that’s Meyers’ filmmaking – continuity isn’t a priority as much as feel good-ness.
And because this is a film about a stressed out worker having to choose between work and family, it doesn’t take much to predict the ending. You might roll your eyes at what happens in the end, but Meyers packs things up with a neat little bowtie, again making things cutesy enough to smile and move on.
De Niro does five or more films a year out of which only one is worth watching again. The Intern isn’t one of those films – we’ll have to wait for David O Russell’s Joy for that – but it’s hard to hate. Those looking for a funnier, more memorable father-daughter feel good dynamics are recommended to grab a DVD of the 90’s classic Father of the Bride, which still remains Meyers’ best work.
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