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Film review: The Intern is a waste of talent

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway star in this lightweight, schmaltzy comedy about a septuagenarian intern embracing he dot-com age.
Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in The Intern. Warner Bros Pictures
Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in The Intern. Warner Bros Pictures

The Intern

Directed by: Nancy Meyers

Starring: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo

Two stars

Anne Hathaway is excellently cast (and exceptionally dressed) in The Intern as Jules Ostin, a successful but uptight dot-com entrepreneur who likes to ride a bike around the office of the online fashion store she launched 18 months ago, and which now employs 216 people.

Into her Brooklyn brownstone strolls wise widower Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old “senior intern” played by Robert De Niro. He is soon dubbed “Mr Congeniality”, charming the rank and file with his “vintage” dress and outdated etiquette – a chivalrous gent in a sea of stumbling, stubbled boys.

The one person who initially fails to spot his charm is, you guessed it, Jules. If only they realised how much they have to learn from each other ... and – click – before you know it she is signing her new bestie up for Facebook while he’s doling out relationship advice. Along the way, Whittaker finds time to flirt awkwardly with ageing “office masseuse” (it’s that kind of office), played by Rene Russo, whose purpose in the film is to provide the opportunity for two crude physical gags.

Whittaker is simply too nice. Unflinchingly calm and patient, his motivations and desires remain submerged in a sea of cute, trademarked De Niro facial grimaces. Quite what attracts one of the greatest actors of our time to such whimsy is an ongoing lounge debate, but we’d hazard it wasn’t the clunky, schmaltzy script from writer-director Nancy Meyers (The Holiday).

Hathaway has more to work with – and work it she does – but even her powerhouse ­waterworks can’t ground the tonal confusion at The Intern’s core, straddling the borders between drama and comedy without ever putting down roots in either camp.

A wasted opportunity – the pairing of these two talents should never have been frittered away on such an inconsequential and lightweight conceit.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: September 23, 2015 04:00 AM

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