***1/2 (out of 5)
September 25, 2015
Robert De Niro as BEN
Anne Hathaway as JULES
Rene Russo as FIONA
Anders Holm as MATT
JoJo Kushner as PAIGE
Andrew Rannells as CAMERON
Adam DeVine as JASON
Zack Pearlman as DAVIS
Jason Orley as LEWIS
Christina Sherer as BECKY
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
For all the hubbub that has been made over the past year or two about the lack of good female directors in Hollywood, there has been little noise championing Nancy Meyers, one of the better and more consistent directors out there. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t fit the rubric of modern feminism with a career of making charming yet somewhat stereotypical light comedies and romances. Maybe it’s because she’s from an older generation and cut her teeth as a writer/director with her then-husband Charles Shyer.
Whatever the case, I’d like to go on record now to say that Meyers gets a bum rap from Hollywood, many critics and a lot of the enlightened journalistic elite who spend more time with angst-ridden Facebook posts and shaming everyone from Joss Whedon to NASA scientists for perceived misogyny.
In fact, Nancy Meyers is one of the better directors out there, male of female. Sure, her stuff tends to be a bit corny and amounts to entertaining fluff, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Movies provide an escape, and even if the film is not grounded in hardcore reality, the entertaining fluff has an integral place in our popular culture.
Meyers’ latest film is “The Intern,” starring Robert De Niro as Ben, a retired widower trying to find something to fill his day. He answers an ad for a job as a senior intern at an e-commerce company and gets hired. There, he is paired with the company’s no-nonsense and sometimes difficult boss Jules (Anne Hathaway). Though their relationship is strained at first, the two soon forge a respectful friendship, allowing each to grow as a person.
While there really isn’t a romance in the film (aside from some strife in Jules’ marriage that needs to get resolved), “The Intern” follows a basic romantic comedy formula. It doesn’t exactly have a meet-cute (a term Meyers took screen time to explain to her audience in the charming film “The Holiday” about ten years ago), but we see a strong character dynamic between Ben and Jules. Here, it shuffles between a father-daughter relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship, depending on who has more experience.
Even though “The Intern” follows this formula, it is a bit unconventional because there’s not a central villain or driving force around which the plot unspools. The script’s structure is more of a vignette presentation, featuring everything from warm character moments to full-on screwball comedy slapstick routines. I’ll admit when the film goes full-screwball, it gets a bit distracting, but there is really only one scene where that happens, and it does work for what it is.
“The Intern” is Meyers’ chance to vent about everything from sexism in the business world to the loss of chivalry. While I think there are a few places in the movie where she misses her own point (in particular about that marital strife in Jules’ life, but that seems to be more directed at her ex-husband considering their relationship seemed to fall apart when Meyers became a bigger success), but in the end, this isn’t an issue-driven film.
“The Intern” is a sweet, light comedy that makes several points but isn’t obnoxious about it. Sure, it doesn’t exist in any known reality, featuring a New York City with no crime, no trash and streets completely void of traffic even though a good chunk of the movie is spent driving around at all times of the day. But we don’t want our light comedies to struggle with traffic jams and graffiti.
Both De Niro and Hathaway shine in the film, making what could be annoying characters simply warm and inviting. They’re not new characters, either in cinema or for these actors to play. In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen multiple different versions many times before. However, like the film not portraying reality, this isn’t the point. There’s a warm familiarity with this and most of what Nancy Meyers does, and I almost always welcome it back with her new films.