The Intern film review - Feminist workplace comedy with wings

Unlikely chemistry gives lift to Nancy Meyers' equal opportunities office flick

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathway in The Intern. (Warner Bros.)

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathway in The Intern. (Warner Bros.)

What do most 70-year-olds do if they find themselves widowed and retired? Take up Tai Chi? Learn Mandarin? Ben Whitaker (Robert De Niro) has tried that and more, but finds there’s still a hole in his life. A Senior Interns Program at an e-commerce fashion company, About The Fit, might fill the gap. The program has been signed off without a second thought by the company’s CEO, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathway), who is often too busy rushing from meeting to meeting to meeting on her workplace bicycle to pay attention to anything she’s actually doing.

When Whitaker is assigned to Ostin as something of a PA, he’s able to lend his years of business experience to helping Ostin organiser her life, not least when associates of the company become concerned at her ability to lead the company.

The chemistry between De Niro and Hathaway as leads really helps the relationship between their characters build. Ben takes a couple of tasks off of others in the office at first, then takes over as Jules’ chauffeur, while in return she shows him how to join Facebook, and similarly how to rebalance his life despite knowing how to do nothing other than work for most of his life.

That said, Meyers, whose CV includes What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, is no stranger to writing about powerful women and so the film chooses to focus mostly on Hathway’s character as a can-do woman, building a business up by herself despite attempts by male influences to tell her that she can’t do her job. So there’s a bit of feminism to the film, but in the right way: “I hate to be the feminist here…” Jack opens a line in one scene, but that’s likely just a reflection of how society views a cause like it. Why hate the notion of equality for genders?

Meyers also writes often about people in the autumn of their lives, so it’s no surprise that by and large, The Intern is a very well-written film. The film deals with grief, ageing, infidelity, and the 21st century entrepreneur lifestyle and the stress that entails, all while remaining upbeat and, yes, funny.

De Niro seems to be having more fun in this than in other similar comedy escapades as of late, not least wearing a breast pump in Meet The Parents. It’s nice to see him in a role that gives him room to work with, and lets him make the most of the warmth he can give to a character.

It’s an unlikely pairing, but Hathaway and De Niro make it work and, while more could have been done with their back-and-forthing - Whitaker has a couple of moments of 21st century initiation, but perhaps could’ve used a couple more - the swanky, starship-esque Audi he ferries Jules around in would’ve done just fine - but there’s a lot to like here. Give this intern a full-time position - at least, for a couple of hours of your time.