Strange as this may sound, Hollywood Elsewhere doesn’t have that much of a problem with Nancy Meyers‘ The Intern. I caught it last night, expecting to be underwhelmed or narcotized in the usual Meyers way…and yet somehow this combination of two 20 mg. Xanax tabs and a mild slice of quiche went down easy. Does it give you a feeling of electric discovery and high-throttle wowser and a flood of emotion pouring out of a fire hydrant? No, but it lulls you into thinking that there’s more to life than just this. Especially if you’re 50-plus with a vial of Cialis in the bathroom cabinet.
It’s about Ben, a 70 year-old retiree (Robert De Niro) who needs a job of some kind to keep from losing his mind, and so he lands a senior intern gig at an online fashion company run by Jules (Anne Hathaway), a driven, detail-obsessed entrepeneur. And nothing really happens. Not that much, I mean. The Intern reminded me of “Nothing Is Easy,” the Jethro Tull song, but in a different context. Sometimes “nothing” is no sweat.
The sharp, organized and always gentlemanly Ben fits right in, and not only does he not fuck anything up but Hathaway eventually realizes he’s a kind of low-key gift from the Gods — nice guy, problem-solver, friend, chauffeur, silver smoothie, confidante, etc. A 21st Century Mr. Belvedere. De Niro and Hathaway and the friendly, well-groomed supporting cast just amble along. This happens and that happens. Easy does it. How can you hate a film that begins and ends with a nice Tai-Chi class in a park?
The Intern has (a) one really funny line that I laughed out loud at, (b) the usual over-heated slapstick-style reactions to anything to do with sexuality, and (c) a steady supply of mellow.
All I know is that if you can let The Intern in (and I realize that could be a problem in some quarters), it gives you a nice, comfortable, settled-down feeling. Sometimes it’s okay just to lie back and submit to a nice foot massage. As long as you’ve just showered and had a recent pedicure, I mean.
The worst thing that happens is the issue of Jules’ cheating stay-at-home husband, Matt (Anders Holm). But it’s nothing to get bent out of shape over. One look at Holm’s reddish beard and floppy bohemian hair and bathrobe-and-sweat-pants attire and I decided “whatever…not that hot…a bit of a belly that will grow over the years…considerate guy but not that dynamic…if he and Jules get divorced, fine…they can share custody.”
Meyers is just as much of a consistent and well-defined auteur as Michael Mann or John Ford or Samuel Fuller — she just makes movies that always happen within a realm of comfort, affluent insulation, alpha vibes and 40-plus romantic pangs. And so nothing rude or disturbing or creepy or traumatic happens, and you just have to accept that this is par for the course. A visit to Nancy Meyers Land means shutting out…what, 80% or 90% of the misery and aesthetic offenses and uncertainties and annoyances and dull horrors of real life?
Stephanie Zacharek was wrong to say that De Niro’s performance reminded her that he’s “just as capable as any other actor of slouching through a film like a lump of mold making its way down a tree limb.” He’s simply adapting to the Meyers rulebook — playing the perfect gentleman, speaking softly, dressing impeccably, living in an expensive home, etc. When a male actor accepts a Nancy Meyers gig he’s more or less saying to himself, “I agree to be completely made over and mellowed out and in a certain sense de-balled…I am doing this for the money and it won’t hurt me that much….if it’s not your cup of tea, fine, but the paycheck works for me.”
For whatever reason I found The Intern almost completely inoffensive. Even Hathaway’s acting — her vibe, her mood, her perkiness– is cool as far as it goes, or it certainly works in this context. I wouldn’t recommend it to either of my sons, but I walked out going “okay, fine, whatever…that was easy.”