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“The Intern” fails to meet expectations

The two leading stars of the film “The Intern,” Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, have both benefited greatly from the genre of comedy at some point throughout their careers.

De Niro entered the world of comedy back in 1999 with “Analyze This,” which instantly became a critical and commercial success, and earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. After “Analyze This,” De Niro continued pursuing and stretching his comedic prowess with “Meet the Parents” in 2000. This film also became a mass hit both critically and commercially, and earned him another Golden Globe nomination. After years of collaborating exclusively with Martin Scorsese, De Niro has joined David O. Russell in yet another perfect collaborating team. They have collaborated together in several projects, including one of Russell’s most memorable and recent films: the comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” The picture earned De Niro his seventh Oscar nomination and his first nomination in an approximately twenty-year gap. Now, De Niro hopes “The Intern” will bring him some of the success he has found in comedies during the past decade.

As for Anne Hathaway, her story is quite different. She actually started her acting career in comedy: Do comedies like, “The Princess Diaries” (2001), “Ella Enchanted” (2004), “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” (2004), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) and “Get Smart” (2008) come to mind? In reality, comedy is a formula that has worked well for Hathaway, but it is also something she has attempted to evade in the past years, trying to prove herself a real actress. It doubtlessly has worked; she has the Oscar to prove it. However, her latest projects have not been able to replicate her earlier successes, and her return to the silver screen with “The Intern” seems to be a desperate maneuver from her part.

“The Intern” was directed by veteran Nancy Meyer who, at this point in her career, has developed her own success formula. She has demonstrated that films starring a female lead do indeed work. This quest for the right formula started with “Private Benjamin” (1980), which was carried entirely by Goldie Hawn. In addition, Meyer obtained an Oscar nomination for penning the script. Her most recent films have been dominated by strong and dignified ladies, such as Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give,” Kate Winslet in “The Holiday” and Meryl Streep in “It’s Complicated.”

Meyer has crafted a brand throughout the years. Her films, in certain form, have singled out from many others, mainly for its strong and adamant feminist voice. “The Intern” is not the exception. Nonetheless, it is not the sole ingredient Meyer utilizes in her films. Another of her usual key ingredients is placing a masculine male lead in the midst of a feminine cast. They have ranged from Mel Gibson in “What Women Want,” to Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give” and Alec Baldwin in “It’s Complicated.” In “The Intern” the masculine, macho figure is none other than Robert De Niro.

Something completely distinct from Meyer’s previous films and radical about “The Intern” is that De Niro steals the show with his Woody Allen-esque character, while in Meyer’s films it is often the female lead who happens to own the show. De Niro reminds us again what real acting is with his character, Ben Whittaker.

The film’s premise is about a high-powered executive at a new fashion website, and De Niro as Whitaker is a senior intern who is hired to work for Hathaway’s character after he denies the idea of retirement. Fortunately, there is not one single shred of romance between the two characters; it’s more of a friendship and professional relationship, which turns out to benefit both of them. Ultimately, De Niro’s character inspires Hathaway’s character, Jules Ostin, to become a better person.

The film itself is not one of Meyer’s best films, but on the other hand, is not one of her worst either. De Niro and Hathaway have fantastic chemistry and are able to keep the plot moving. “The Intern” also exposes a valuable message about retired people: they can still be active, resourceful, useful and capable enough to give back to their community regardless of their age.

Overall, the film is a good crowd pleaser—think of it as good comfort food.

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