The Intern – Pertinent points or a tired cliche?

Having recently spent a load of time scrolling through and applying for internships this summer, I was naturally curious when The Intern landed in cinemas last month. With both its leads being played by Hollywood stars – Anne Hathaway as Jules, young CEO of a blooming fashion company, and Robert De Niro as Ben, her 70 year old intern – I decided that it was definitely worth a watch. Prior to seeing the film, I had some preconceptions: the most ironic of these being that it would be similar to The Devil Wears Prada (which also stars Anne Hathaway, but in a totally opposite role).

Interestingly, The Intern sees Hathaway assume the dragon-business-woman role, reversing her The Devil Wears Prada role entirely, and arguably indicates her range of abilities as an actress (although Meryl Streep is untouchably fierce – sorry, Anne).

The film attempts to explore several poignant and debated issues in our current society in several different ways: the most obvious being age discrimination. The opening scenes of the film fitted my expectations, sporting a fairly clichéd but light-hearted and comedic vibe in which De Niro’s humble character gradually proves his worth – ‘despite his age’. He is thrown in the deep end among a stereotypical sea of young people with big egos after being appointed as Jules’s (Hathaway’s) intern when she thoughtlessly agrees to a community outreach programme – condescending, right?

After Jules dismisses Ben (De Niro) on their first meeting, saying she’ll call when there is something for him to do, his persistent kindness and dedication eventually result in the two becoming friends – not that she deserves it. Ben’s character lives up to every old-guy-in-young-environment banality, such as his technological blunders, and Hathaway’s character is predictably dislikeable in most of the early scenes.

However, after a while, the film takes a turn, packing in the feels and dealing more seriously with issues such as gender equality and women CEOs. As we unpick Jules’ character, she – again, predictably – shows that she is not all bad and actually does have feelings, she becomes an unexpected flagship icon for the unresolved gender workplace debate. We learn of the struggles she faces as a mother, a wife, and the head of her own growing company, and watch her friendship with Ben blossom. The chemistry between Hathaway and De Niro is undeniable: it is, arguably, the highlight of this film, which just about makes up for the melodramatic, soppy plot.
Fundamentally, the film is an enjoyable and interesting engagement with a fair few societal issues. It packs in some humour and great on-screen relationships, with believable characters along the ride – despite being a bit lacklustre in its execution.

Jessica Herbert

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

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