Steered by Anne Hathaway’s sweet persona and Robert De Niro’s reserved, friendly demeanor, The Intern falls just short of a classic hit. Like many of director Nancy Meyers’ movies, the conflicts presented in “The Intern” focus around the home sphere, despite the business setting. Jules Ostin (Hathaway) embodies third-wave feminism – she’s the CEO of a start up that has blossomed from 20 employees to 200 in just about two years. She has a beautiful home in Brooklyn with her stay-at-home husband and adorable daughter, and she is still quirky and imperfect. Her Type A personality definitely resonates with many on this campus and in many ways, Jules is very relatable. As we follow Ben Whittaker (De Niro), a 70-year-old widower, navigate the world of modern day business fueled by social media and casual wear, we experience the limited humor “The Intern” has to offer.
Amidst the mundane, low-risk conflicts of the movie (accidentally sending a derogatory email to Jules’ mother, switching Ben to another department for a morning), there is a glimmer of humor found in the age difference between our two leads. Ben applies for the new “senior intern” program at Jules’ company and ends up being assigned as Jules’ personal intern. Most of the humor is given in the first half of the movie. There are jokes about Ben getting an erection at work, a younger intern finding a “vintage” briefcase like Ben’s on eBay, etc. But as the film progresses, it deteriorates from tame, everyday humor to a more realistic issue centered around Jules’ family accompanied by monologue after monologue about women in the workplace and the effect it has on the family.
Jules finds herself in a very similar plot – similar to working men, that is. Her husband complains that she isn’t home enough, and it strains their relationship and her relationship with her daughter. In classic Meyers fashion, both sides of the argument are given the spotlight. However (maybe unsurprisingly?), Ben is actually the one to take the more feminist side on the issue. Jules’s husband and her employees are pressuring her to look into hiring a new CEO to take over the company and be her boss, so that she can relax some and get more family time. While Jules doesn’t necessarily dismiss feminist values (she complains, “It’s 2015, are we really still critical of working class moms, really?” and later critiques potential hires’ sexism), she puts a bigger focus on her husband’s thoughts about her work life than Ben thinks she should. And thus, the movie becomes a montage of feminist monologues and cute, endearing relationship- building moments between Ben and Jules.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love feminist monologues, and I think the film should be credited for challenging gender roles and tackling some very real issues in today’s world. However, without an enchanting plot, and with a lack of stellar comedic relief, the movie comes off a little dry. Without the star power brought to the screen by Hathaway and De Niro, “The Intern” would barely even be a blink in movie history, if it will even become anything more than that with these incredible actors.