We’re evidently overdue for another Nancy Meyers to really well-off older white people. As usual for her, The Intern is Nice. Unceasingly, relentlessly Nice. And, while more watchable and entertaining than most of Meyers’ fare, it’s still devoid of any real conflict or substance.
I went in ready for another goofy mix-up, where the old guy accidentally ends up landing an internship intended for kids after misreading “senior internship” as “for senior citizens” instead of “for college seniors”. But no, the Brooklyn-based online fashion startup About The Fit really is trying to hire older folks into internships in order to learn from their experience.
These things really do exist, by the way. The problem is they don’t really look quite like they do in the movie. In real life, “senior interns” are generally people who have retired and then run down their savings. They’re forced to re-enter the workforce and start a new career at the bottom just like the kids struggling just out of college. It’s actually pretty depressing to think about, and not very Nice at all.
We can’t have that in Nancy’s Nice movie, so Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has plenty of money. He retired comfortably after decades at the same company — they made phone books like people used back in the good old days before these kids and their Googling everything — and since his wife died — no risk of any conflict or fault on his part — he travelled the world and took up a dozen hobbies in order to find something to do with himself. He doesn’t need any money or a new career to keep himself from eating cat food; he just wants an occupation.
Ben ends up paired with Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), the workaholic founder of ATF. She’s being encouraged to hire a professional CEO since the job is getting out of hand, putting particular pressure on her marriage to Matt (Anders Holm), who quit his own job to care for their adorable moppet, Paige (JoJo Kushner). She worries, though, about losing creative control over the company she’s nurtured from the ground up.
Slowly but surely, Jules comes to trust Ben. There are a few back-and-forth moments, but they’re more affable mistakes than real conflicts. An apology, a warm smile, and all is forgotten. Ben also gets on famously with his fellow interns (Adam DeVine, Zack Perlman, Jason Orley), who immediately give him the respect and deference a man of his experience so obviously deserves. None of them ever, say, cracks wise about his relative lack of facility with computers. His clothes and professional accessories are “vintage”, and therefore cool. He immediately catches the eye of the in-house masseuse (Fiona).
The one point that would, in any realistic world, have been an actual conflict is the turbulence between Jules and Matt. Any real couple would have to deal with long, painful soul-searching if they were even able to recover at all. Luckily we’re in Nancy-land, and it just takes a stern-but-gently, fatherly conversation with each of them and everything is okay again. That’s just how things are when things are Nice.
But while it is so very Nice, and nobody has any real problems to deal with that aren’t easily Niced away, it does manage to avoid ever quite tipping over the edge into cloying. This is a new trick for a woman who began her directing career by Nicing-up the remake of a Disney movie from the ’60s — no mean feat, that. And with a strong cast, it’s hard for a movie not to have its moments here and there. So it’s easy to let go, drift off and allow The Intern to enfold you in a warm, soft, marshmallowy cloud of enjoyable Nice. So very, very Nice.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: pass.