I don’t need to gush about Robert De Niro, do I? At this point, if it isn’t clear that he is one of the greatest actors of all time, and the best actor of his generation, and that he has given dozens of iconic film performances and contributed to acting what Picasso did to painting, then there is no use. It is unspeakably obvious that De Niro is an acting legend, and perhaps can even transcend that boundary and rise to the level of a deity of some sort when it comes to acting. What is also obvious, and it pains me to say it, he lost his way some years ago, when he decided to just phone it in a little bit. We suddenly weren’t seen the artist anymore, but the man, which is not always the best decision, especially when you are considered the greatest living actor. He made some very poor choices, and he came close to losing his status as being a legend of an actor. However, if you’re expecting me to say that De Niro has gone beyond the point of no return, you are gravely mistaken, because he’s taken some steps to challenge himself as an actor more, and his recent work on the brilliant Silver Linings Playbook does show that there is still something there, ready to tear across the screen. If you are expecting me to trash him for choosing to do a light and fluffy comedy like The Intern, you are also wrong, because it actually is a fantastic film and De Niro gives one of his best comedic performances in years.
Honestly, if you ask me to name the three greatest actors of all time, you won’t see Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Stewart listed right at the very top (they are truly acting gods though, and I do recognize their iconic status and their acclaim, and adore them unconditionally), but rather, you would see the same three names – Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. I am part of that generation where our fathers and grandfathers fed us healthy doses of New Hollywood, and some of my first cinematic memories include either Nicholson, Pacino or De Niro. They are the greatest actors of all time, and fit in nicely with the previously mentioned names. Nicholson hasn’t made a film in five years, but De Niro and Pacino still work steadily. The difference between De Niro and Pacino and Nicholson is that Pacino and Nicholson have seemed to always be scared of playing the “old guy” – they don’t deny their physical aging, but they continiously seem to play the same kind of character, which is that of the “young guy in an old guy’s body”, and while they have proven some small exceptions to this rule, it remains relatively standard. De Niro is different – he has shown to be perfectly capable with playing older characters that are aware of their age. It is one element of De Niro’s acting that sets him apart from his contemporaries. This has never been more evident than in The Intern, where he shows off his age with such grace and dignity, and gives a great performance.
In The Intern, De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a sweet retired old man who decides that the dormant life of a senior citizen isn’t for him, and instead he enrolls in a senior internship programme, designed to employ the elderly into young companies to give a burst of wisdom and a life filled with knowledge to the company. On an entirely storyline level, this is a wildly original idea, that in itself could serve as a film, with a cast of a few more high-profile actors causing havoc. Instead, it focuses only on De Niro, and how he is paired with vicious but kindhearted businesswoman Jules Ostin, played wonderfully by the lovely Anne Hathaway, who is very reluctant to have a seventy-year-old man working as her intern, but as the film progresses, we learn that Ben is just the person she needed. Story-wise, this is a fantastic concept and something really unique, in an offbeat way.
I know this film has received some mixed reviews, and I recognize why, but I respectfully disagree with the negative reviews. The main reason why this film works so well is because the two leads – De Niro and Hathaway – have such sparkling chemistry and play off each other so well. Hathaway has become a very interesting kind of movie star, and has made some fascinating choices, and being across boundaries in terms of generation, the two actors are able to bring out the best in each other. It really is a joy to watch them playing off each other, and it reminds me of classic screwball comedies, where chemistry between the leads was of utmost importance. The most invaluable rule about a comedy film is that if the leads can perform well with each other, and have good chemistry, the story doesn’t matter too much. That is definitely the case here, and every argument as to the story of this film being flawed is obviously relevant, but made irrelevant by the fact that the leads are so good together, it doesn’t matter too much in the end.
I love all sorts of films, but there is nothing better than after a long day, seeing a fun, fluffy comedy that isn’t at all serious, but just makes you feel happy and allows you to smile for an hour or two. Nancy Meyers takes after Nora Ephron on this front, and as shown here in The Intern, Meyers can make something absolutely void of any worldly problems or heavy issues and something that can just be described as pure…fun. I must admit that I am well aware that I am coming off as a bit of a rabid comedy lover here, but honestly, I love cinema because it allows us to escape, and sometimes the best way to escape the heavy burdens of life is to watch something fun and not at all serious, which The Intern is. Honestly, if you want to see a sweet and fun film that will keep a smile on your face throughout, The Intern is definitely the film for you. It doesn’t take itself so seriously, and seeing Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro having fun in this film just makes it all the more satisfying.
The Intern is not a serious film. If you go in expecting a film that tells you about current affairs, or makes you think more than is necessary, or is serious in tone, then you’ll be disappointed. The Intern is just pure escapism, and allows us to just let go of our problems for a little while, and I guarantee that watching this film will put you in a good mood for the rest of the day. I am always one who looks for intelligent, thought-provoking cinema, but I am also a sucker for a film that just gives the audience some fun and a few solid laughs without being too heavy on topical and important issues. I think The Intern is a fun, sweet little comedy that might not cater to all tastes, but it certainly is a really great film for what it is, and contrary to what one might believe, it is not in any way a “chick flick”, and can be enjoyed by the entire family, because its just a fun little slice of escapism, and a kind of film that I wish was matched in quality and heart more often. A great film that I really did enjoy.