De Niro and Hathaway, with Sparkling Office Chemistry

By David McGlothlin

PG-13 | Comedy | 121min | Nancy Meyers, Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo (director, top cast)

Old dogs can learn new tricks, as Owen Wilson and Vince Vaugh proved with The Internship in 2013 as Google interns. Internships are nothing special, of course, but the characters behind The Intern are attention- grabbers with a surprisingly charming chemistry on screen.

images-10Ben Whittaker (Robert DeNiro), a retired businessman and widower, earns himself an internship with Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), the young owner of a successful startup e-commerce retail company in New York City.

Don’t expect a tough-guy DeNiro as he was in Goodfellas, of a psycho-killer DeNiro like Cape Fear, or a serious C.I.A. retiree DeNiro in a slapdash comedy like Meet the Parents.

Ben struggles with loneliness after retirement and the death of his wife, and then he meets Jules. Not one to check e-mails or go on the Internet, he notices a flyer for a senior internship program seeking senior citizens.

He claims to know nothing about e-commerce, even though he evidently reads the Wall Street Journal every day. So how’s it possible to read the WSJ on a daily basis without browsing through at least the occasional  e-commerce-based story.

Not to mention, most 70-year-olds today are not actually as oblivious as Ben appears to be to e-mail and the Internet, which their generation invented, after all. My grandma is even older. At age 81, she emails me constantly with pictures and links to websites.

O.K., so it’s a plot point that sets up a useful generational contrast, as Jules struggles with her company’s success while balancing life at home.

She faces pressure from the company’s stockholders to hire a full-time CEO. At home, her husband Matt (Anders Holm) is having an affair. He suffers an identify crisis from the transition from a breadwinner to a stay-at-home dad for their daughter Paige (JoJo Kushner).

So all she needs in her life is a 70-year-old intern to distract her? She already barely eats between answering her two cellphones and rushing to meetings every five minutes.

The InternBefore retiring, Ben worked at a phone book company, another point device about a resource that is useless today. It’s clear that retired before the technology boom, but again: He doesn’t know how to turn on his computer screen or use e-mail?

Whatever, Ben finds other ways to contribute to the company, not the least of which are his wisdom and genuine thoughtfulness. He worked his way up the corporate ladder at the phone book company for 40 years before eventually running the business. So he knows how to run a successful business, which is precisely a challenge that Jules struggles with.

From the start he is a big hit around the office. He wears a suit every day and won’t leave until Jules does, even though she’ll hardly notice.

He also helps Jason (Adam DeVine), internship director, through an office romance and shelters Davis (Zack Pearlman), fellow intern, at his house after his parents evict him. He even arrives early to surprise everyone by ridding the office of a pile of junk that had accumulated for months.

Ben goes to great lengths to get more acquainted with Jules and eventually makes a breakthrough when he steps in for her driver, who was drinking on the job.

It doesn’t take long for Ben to pick up on Jules’ problems at home where he also contributes with his wisdom and thoughtfulness.

Jules’ role as a women CEO and owner of her own business is a driving force throughout the film. It affects her relationships at work and home.

While Matt thrives at the role of house-dad, he feels emasculated and ignored. So he explores an affair with another mom from his Paige’s school, which is later discovered by Ben, which is no surprise.

Like everything else, Ben handles it in a suave yet subtle manner. Everyone loves Ben, even the company’s hired masseuse Fiona (Rene Russo), who has a crush on him. Eventually Jules changes her feelings towards Ben. In the meantime, she is at a crossroads with her own career and family.

While I don’t care to see another internship movie with 20, 45 or 70-years-old interns, I appreciated The Intern for what it was — a classic, feel-good movie.

The best part was the chemistry of DeNiro and Hathaway. The urge to shake Ben’s hand and take up an office collection to buy Jules’ a spa day was considerable.

But I had one remaining question remaining as the credits rolled:

“Was that a paid internship?”

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