Director: Nancy Meyers
Writer: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm, JoJo Kushner, Andrew Rannells, Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley, Christina Scherer, Nat Wolff
Seen on: 29.9.2015
Ben (Robert De Niro) used to have a full life. But now he’s retired and widowed and he feels a lack, no matter how many hobbies he starts. When he stumbles on an ad for a senior internship, he decides to give it a go. That’s how he ends up at Jules’ (Anne Hathaway) online clothing company. Although Jules isn’t very interested at first in having an intern like Ben, Ben quietly starts to find himself jobs to make her life easier.
The Intern is a film that pretends to be feminist but comes from an ultra-privileged, non-intersectional perspective in that regard that is quite galling. It was nice enough to watch, but it almost made me wish that they hadn’t tried to make what’s happening in it seem like feminism.
I think that there aren’t enough films out there that even try to be feminist, so it’s disappointing for myself to write such a review of a film that at least tries. But here we are. There’s a scene in the film where Ben tells Jules “I hate to be the feminist in this conversation” and it leaves a very bitter aftertaste when a (70 year old) man tells a (young) woman how to be a feminist. Particularly in a film that only barely passes the Bechdel-Wallace test and where the only women who are actually friends with each other are protrayed as backward bitches.
It also leaves a bitter aftertaste that there are no people of color in this film (this is New York and we maybe see two or three POC in the background, but they certainly don’t get to talk), nor any poor people or any queer people (Jules’ company partner might be gay, but it’s never made explicit) or…, which instantly severely limits any kind of feminist message. And so the film gets stuck on the question if Jules can have it all: can she be a mom and a wife and a company CEO? How can she possible juggle all of this on her own? The film answers with she can’t, though she can and should try. But the question whether Ben can have it all is never even raised. Yet at the end he has a new girlfriend, a fulfilling job and has become a father figure to several of his co-workers and even Jules. And he dresses impeccably while he does it all. [Maybe Meyers wanted to show that double standard, but I doubt it.]
Plus neither the economic question that ties into senior internship programs nor the view on old age are thought about. With the economic structure of most Western societies where a lot of seniors are forced to work longer and face poverty when relying on underfunded pensions, it feels cynical at best to suggest unpaid internships as an employment scheme for well-off seniors. If we think about this further, it’s easy to see how yet another population segment is pressured into being useful by letting itself be exploited by capitalism. Yay.
If we don’t consider the political implications of the film, though, it is enjoyable enough. The film has a warmth to it, a nice sense of humor and great performances. It is expertly made to provide you with maximum entertainment and for the most part, that works extremely well. At least if you manage to keep you criticism of society at the cinema door.