Although many critics panned The Intern, I believe the film has much to say, especially in a society where the elderly are often mocked or ignored just because they seem old-fashioned or have a hard time with technology. Writer-director Nancy Meyers, known for her female-driven romantic comedies such as What Women Want and It’s Complicated, knocks it out of the warehouse in this quirky comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro.
Success at a Price
Jules Ostin (Hathaway) had a dream. Her online clothing company, About the Fit, went from an idea to a business which employed 200 people in just 18 months. She’s in over her head, though, to the detriment of her family and the people she works with. That she wants to be involved in every aspect of the company, working side-by-side with her employees, is laudable. She takes customer service calls so she can work out the kinks and orders her own product just so she can see what it looks like when she gets it in the mail. This last one results in an impromptu visit to the shipping facility to instruct the packers on the proper way to prep product for mailing. But all that involvement makes Jules a busy woman but not the best wife and mom.
Enter Ben Whittaker (De Niro), a 70-year-old widower who doesn’t know what to do with all the time he has now that his wife is gone. Spying a flyer for “senior interns,” he applies to Jules’s company and gets assigned as her personal assistant, much to her chagrin. The fact that Ben used to work producing and marketing phone books indicates he’s probably not going to fit in at About the Fit. She ignores him most of the time but he doesn’t let that get in his way. He becomes a mentor and friend to the youngsters of the company (pretty much everyone).
When Ben begins driving Jules around, he meets her husband, Matt (Anders Holm), and daughter, Paige (Jojo Kushner). Paige takes an immediate liking to Ben and he becomes a friend of the family.
Respect Your Elders
As a character, Ben doesn’t really change. He’s the impeccably dressed perfect gentleman who always knows the right thing to say. What he does is effect change in those around him. His fellow interns, all geeky young men, get lessons in chivalry, respect for women, fashion tips, and all-around goodness from Ben. When Jules helps Ben set up a Facebook profile, she begins to see Ben for who he is. For Jules, Ben becomes a mentor, a quasi-father figure, one who appreciates the success Jules has experienced but also understands the stresses such success can put on family life. He challenges Jules to appreciate all the hard work her employees do, especially Becky (Christina Scherer), Jules’s overworked and underappreciated assistant.
The Intern might seem almost too good to be true. Do good people like Ben still exist today? You bet they do. Since they don’t do what they do to gain attention, you won’t find them on the front page. But when you need a friend, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to just listen, they’ll be there. And when people like Ben die, all their good works will come back to them a hundred fold in heaven.
About the Author
Sister Hosea Rupprecht is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, a religious community dedicated to evangelization with the media. She holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto and an MA in Media Literacy from Webster University in St. Louis.
Sr. Hosea is director of the East Coast office of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, based in Staten Island, NY, and speaks on media literacy and faith to catechists, parents, youth, and young adults. Together with Father Chip Hines, she is the co-host of Searchlight, a Catholic movie review show on Catholic TV. Sr. Hosea is the author of How to Watch Movies with Kids: A Values-Based Strategy, released by Pauline Books & Media.
For the past 15 years, she has facilitated various film dialogues for both children and adults, as well as given presentations on integrating culture, faith and media.