The more recent arc of Robert De Niro’s acting career has followed a trajectory that generally hasn’t been a big success with both critics and fans of his earlier work. Viewers who are hoping for the actor’s return to more intense terrain won’t be pleased with The Intern, a comedy drama that somehow ends up being both charming and dull.
In the hopes of filling the hole in his life left by retirement and his wife’s death, Ben (Robert De Niro), a 70-year-old former executive at a telephone directory company, joins a senior citizen internship programme at an up-and-coming e-commerce fashion firm. Ben’s old-school charm instantly wins over the young workers at the office, but the company’s founder and CEO Jules (Anne Hathaway) is initially unreceptive to the elderly newcomer. As she tries to juggle the rapidly-growing start-up and her increasingly strained family life, she eventually begins to see Ben’s value, and learns to benefit from his advice and gentle wisdom.
The privileged individuals in The Intern are so unrealistically nice and everything is so cordially resolved that there is no real tension in the proceedings. Even when its characters are put in a potentially tough situation, the stakes are never quite palpable. As a result, the movie’s dealing of its weighty subject matter seems shallow, over-simplistic and lacks edge.
Instead of creating interesting characters, writer and director Nancy Meyer seems content with employing caricatures and spends two long hours enamoured with her own one-dimensional creations. The film mostly relies on the talent of its lead actors to add life to Meyers’ self-satisfied script, and to their credit, both De Niro and Hathaway are amiable in their roles, although there is nothing in the project that would actually challenge the actors or bring out something remarkable or memorable in their performances.
Not particularly smart or amusing, The Intern spends most of its time just being pleasant. While it does succeed in exuding warmth, its lack of tension makes it bland. As long as you don’t expect anything profound from it, you might still enjoy the movie primarily due to De Niro’s easygoing charm and Hathaway’s genial presence.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 20th, 2015.