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Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro shine in The Intern
October 1, 2015
The Intern begins where, if films are to be believed, all Americans spend the vast majority of their time: the park. 70-year-old Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is practicing Tai Chi; the cliché is shrewdly intentional. A retired widower, Ben is restless. To fill his time he plays golf, takes cooking lessons, learns Mandarin and travels the world. He goes to Starbucks every morning at 7.15 because this is of course where all New Yorkers can be found if they’re not at the park. He desperately wants to be part of something again.
Meanwhile across town Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) is a very big part of a very big something. As the founder of About The Fit, an online fashion company that in just eighteen months has grown from a hopeful kitchen table venture to a 250-employee juggernaut, she’s too busy for her own good. She’s so busy in fact that she must cycle from one end of the office to the other, lest she waste precious seconds travelling on foot. What she needs, perhaps, is an intern.
Seeing an opportunity for his twilight years to finally have a purpose, Ben applies for About The Fit’s new senior citizen internship program. As the former exec. of a phonebook printing company enters this nearly paperless working world, a funny, touching, thought-provoking generational culture clash plays out in the ATF office.
“Grey is the new green”, an About The Fit employee boldly declares on the intern’s first day. Valuing tweeting over talking, the millennial is evidently sceptical about the veracity of his own hyperbolic statement. What can he possibly learn from a man who carries a hanky and struggles to locate the laptop power button?
Well, while Jules’ young team have succeeded in creating an e-commerce empire thanks to their technical literacy, their people skills leave little something to be desired. All emoting is done primarily via emoticon. “Ben is the person who inspires us to look up from our computers and really engage,” Anne Hathaway explains. “[Jules] knows she’s not easy and he thinks that’s great about her …he may have wanted to be needed but it turns out she needed him too.”
The poignant bond that goes on to develop between Jules and Ben is a lesson in human relationships. It’s a reminder that differences don’t necessarily fall in to a hierarchy. It’s proof that perceived weaknesses need not be limitations if they’re complemented by another’s strengths. This (shock horror, unromantic) friendship between a male and female is a refreshing testimony to the idea that human connections can happily transcend age, gender, and any other societal measures that might otherwise hinder paths from crossing. It’s both joyfully simple and astonishingly revolutionary all at the same time.
Known both for her comedic timing and ability to portray every day life in a warm and deeply human way, Nancy Meyers is the writer / director / producer behind the film. “There are always serious subjects at stake, but they are examined with a great amount of humour,” producer Suzanne Farwell says of Meyers’ films. Busy giggling, the audience is lulled in to a false sense of perfectly-lovely-glossy-Hollywood-movie security. Baby Boomer Ben doing battle with the logistics of creating a Facebook page was always going to be a safe way of provoking laughter, but the tender look shared with Jules as she tells him “you can friend me” is the intended takeaway from the exchange. After all, all millennials know what a profound commitment becoming Facebook friends is.
Pitching itself as a cosy comedy, The Intern actually has the power to be quietly groundbreaking. It’s in cinemas nationwide from Friday 2nd October.
Words by Anouszka Tate