Nancy Meyers is a one-woman show. The writer-director of Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated is known for tightly controlling every aspect of her films, going so far as to personally fill each side table with vases of fluffy peonies and roses to evoke a sense of manicured luxury. Her consuming attention to detail, in both her characters and their gorgeously sculpted world, is inspiring if admittedly unrealistic. In her latest, it’s easy to see Meyers in young ingénue Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), a woman who is so committed to her company’s success that she takes customer service calls and travels to the shipping warehouse to ensure the tissue paper in outgoing packages is folded just so.
In The Intern, Meyers has created a predictable yet crowd-pleasing tale where the older generation imparts sage wisdom to the Millennial crowd. Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a genial widower searching for meaning in life beyond tai chi in the park and Starbucks, stumbles upon a senior internship program at a Brooklyn fashion start-up. As you may have surmised, septuagenarian Ben is assigned to frazzled Jules, the workaholic founder of the booming e-commerce enterprise.
Tiny blips of comedy and drama ensue. Jules doesn’t really want Ben finding the cracks in her flawless exterior, especially her crumbling home life. Ben struggles to learn about technology, new workplace culture (everyone dresses “cash,” no suit and tie required) and modern dating, where email and texting replace real conversation. The movie unfolds pleasantly; gentle Ben wins over spiky Jules with his old-school charm and veteran knowledge of office politics. Their budding friendship balances out Meyers’ missteps, particularly the schmaltzy social humor clogging the script—mother-daughter angst, the struggle to balance work and home life, the elderly’s lack of tech skills; the list goes on.
In the end, everyone gets what he or she needs to smooth over life’s challenges: Ben finds a new passion and a new love interest, and Jules gains some much needed perspective on her job and marriage. Meyers tries to address issues like the loneliness of aging and the trials of working mothers head-on, but the story she tells is slight, leaving one feeling like there is a bigger, better one bubbling underneath the vanilla-and-cashmere surface. One walks away wishing life would somewhat resemble the perpetual niceness embodied by Meyers’ sunny yet charmingly flawed characters, but recognizing that it’s an unlikely reality. Still, if you seek comfort rather than complexity, The Intern satisfies completely.