There’s a promise made at the start of The Intern. Ben Whittaker (Robert DeNiro), the active, intelligent septuagenarian, tells us his life. He’s bored and, despite learning Mandarin and yoga in his retirement, is still at a loose end. Jules Austin (Anne Hathaway), CEO and founder of buy-your-clothes-on-the-internet ‘About the Fit’ is busy, as she prides herself on learning every job within her 200+ employee company. This tight dynamic, as tradition clashes with modernity and attitudes towards age and gender simmer beneath the surface, is intriguing. The actors alone promise an enduring quality and engaging dynamic. This promise, that lures you into the darkened theatre, embedded in your ticket purchase, is sadly torn up, spat upon and dragged through the dirt. Apart from the tender foundations at the beginning, The Intern loses all integrity by the time the credits roll – a desperate two-hours later.
Jules’s company, a trendy Brooklyn-based fashion hub, has curiously put out adverts for senior interns. As a new innovative approach, by second-in-command Cameron (Andrew Rannells), they blindly hire Ben – and Jules only knows after the fact. Bizarrely, she doesn’t remember greenlighting this “grey is the new green” approach, and even wonders whether the conversation even happened. Keen trooper Ben though, an old sales professional, turns up suited and booted in any case, much to the shock of ‘caj’ (as in ‘casual’) younger folk that surround him. It seems that the office is not unlike Ben’s younger days as everyone within the start-up are white men (in a women’s-clothing online retailer). And the only female role, outside of horny masseuse Rene Russo and Hathaway, is permanent sad-face Becky (Christina Scherer) – whose only role seems to be to get stressed, cry and become the love-interest for Ben’s buddy. Ben’s buddies are integral too, with much of Ben’s work apparently about out-manning his metro-hipsters in the office. Ben’s got a vintage briefcase and wears a tie. If only more men were like Ben. Good old Ben. We love Ben.
But Hathaway, ultimately a lovely character, isn’t living the easy life. Nobody wants to work with her and she, very acceptingly, is comfortable with this. Even the Mum’s down at her daughter’s school despise her (of course, this is until Ben winks and explains how great she is). It appears that she’s in a happy marriage, but alas, this may not be true as hubby Matt is rarely in the sexy mood. Jules is reluctantly celebrated and is portrayed as a stressed, over-worked naïve little girl. In fact, good old Ben laughs greatly when noticing how similar Jules and her (actual little girl) daughter are. Those silly women.
The Intern might have been a warm, inspiring and uplifting comedy about change: the inevitable revolution regarding gender equality or the necessary workplace-shift that comes hand-in-hand with modern technology. But after the lads go on an irrelevant heist (ridiculously compared to Oceans Eleven) and Jules’ entire life is revealed as being built around men (remember, it wasn’t even her idea to hire Ben in the first place) the cracks appear. By the time Ben even joshes about how he’s become the feminist (A-ha ha, erm?), the film melts into a puddle on the floor. Almost as if it began as a strong, solid ice-sculpture with the heat, and integrity, of Trainwreck combined with the socially-nuanced observations of While We’re Young bearing down on it, demanding it to explain itself. Ultimately, it can’t. The pain and self-flagellating comes afterwards when you consider the potential, and the unfulfilled promise that was made when you decided to watch The Intern in the first place.