Using an incredibly hokey premise and coming off like an over manufactured product, The Intern is a kind and gentle movie that massages the shoulders of the generation on the way out while holding the door open for the generation on the way in. Too bad that it fails to really say anything in the meantime, choosing instead to plays directly to the middle, refraining from saying anything offensive or insightful.
The premise is bland; Ben (Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower and retired vice president of a phone book printing company. With little to keep him active, he takes a job as an intern for a successful Internet start-up that is conducting a seniors outreach program. This immediately situates Ben against his successors — in life and in business — with the usual clichés. But, the younger generation comes off too oblivious and scatterbrained — even though they’ve built a successful and profitable company — and the older generation comes off too arrogantly out of touch. Ben and the young founder of the company, Julia (Anne Hathaway), are the two exceptions and they eventually form a predictable bond.
This is exactly where The Intern stops showing and starts implying. Billed with an “old dog, new trick/new dog, old trick” sort of dynamic, The Intern does neither. Ben is competent enough to learn his way around a MacBook Pro and a P&L sheet, but contributes little to the office other than observations from 40+ years of experience in the working world. Julia knows exactly what her product is and how to get it to the world and doesn’t actually need any help being the dynamite founder and owner she already is. What she needs, and what she gets, is a little encouragement from Ben to keep going.
De Niro contributes aspects of a good performance and Hathaway does a fine job expressing doubts and there are plenty of side stories and sub-plots to keep the thing moving: one involving Ben dating again, another one involving Julia’s home life and another involving the unkempt, unfocused twenty-somethings of the world. There are plenty of observations about this and that, but they are primarily one-note and contribute little more than a, “Have you ever noticed…” set-up followed by an uninspired conclusion.
The Intern touches on age, mortality, relevancy, marriage, gender roles, work-life, home-life, the 20th century, the 21st century, success, failure, comedy, drama, romance and everything in between. But it just touches on them, never digging deeper to finding something more. It’s a decent movie, but it also feels like a checklist designed to make the audience think they got something more than they actually did.