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Movie Review of the Week: “The Intern”

Movie Review of the Week: “The Intern”
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BY ALISON BAILES

“The Intern” is a pleasant if over-long meander through leafy Brownstone Brooklyn where parking spots are never in short supply and designer kitchens are the norm. We are in Nancy Meyers’ land, the director who practically invented kitchen-porn with the Hamptons spread in “Something’s Gotta Give” and Northern California’s “It’s Complicated”.   Spike Lee’s Bed-Stuy might as well be on a different planet.

In bright factories converted to e-commerce offices, trendy young people hover over laptops and talk on cell phones. No one seems to be over 30, except perhaps the “boss”, an impeccably styled fashionista who likes to ride around the office on a vintage bicycle. The bike is a nod to her busy, waste-no-time approach, but it seems like cinematic showing off…seen once then quickly forgotten. Instead Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) is ferried to and from work in a plush Audi SUV, the environment be damned.

Jules isn’t exactly Miranda Priestly but neither is she Andy Sachs (to namedrop another notable Hathaway movie). She’s a successful workaholic with a booming business model and a dutiful husband and adorable child at home. She’s supposed to represent the female dilemma of the early 21st century; how to have it all without pissing off snarky, stay-at-home moms and sexist workplace chauvinists AND keep your marriage alive. It’s a decent message, even if Meyers who also wrote the script, does hammer it home with an alarming lack of freshness.

Jules seems totally nice which doesn’t really explain her employees’ knowing glances and sympathetic faces when Ben, her new intern is sent into the lion’s den. In a quirk from Screenwriting 101, Ben happens to be a senior citizen, a retired man just turned 70 who has signed onto the intern program in an attempt to stave off boredom and irrelevance. Ben is played by a crinkly-eyed Robert De Niro who saves this movie from hipster overdose just as Ben is sure to save Jules. With his ever-present necktie and proffered hankie, Ben is old-school and you can bet that some of his wisdom and patient understanding will rub off on Jules.

De Niro and Hathaway click well on screen. She manages to make Jules look sympathetic even if it’s hard to really feel sorry for someone with such an awesome wardrobe and an even more enviable kitchen. De Niro smiles a lot and always says the right thing. It’s either a performance of carefully calibrated understatement or phoning-it-in inertia. To be honest it’s hard to tell with De Niro these days. Jokes about old folks trying to keep up in the fast-paced 20-something workplace hit and miss but De Niro sells it all with his bemused, unflappable countenance.

The melanin-challenged cast also features Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Andrew Rannells and a funny Zack Pearlman in the requisite Josh Gad/Jonah Hill role. Sub-plots involving senior romances and computer hacks abound and are unnecessary other than to pad the running time.

But despite its flaws and conventions, “The Intern” does take some unexpected turns and mercifully doesn’t go where I feared it might. But you don’t go to a Nancy Meyers movie for unpredictability and edge. You go for the gentle humor, the pretty people and the picture-book set design. And of course….the kitchens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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