‘The Intern’ – Too good, but a tad insipid (IANS Rating – ***)

Film: “The Intern”; Director: Nancy Meyers; Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Anders Holm, JoJo Kushner, Andrew Rannells, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Celia Waston, Zack Pearlman and Linda Lavin; Rating: ***

Nancy Meyers’ “The Intern” is a perky and bitter-sweet work-place comedy. It is a sensitive portrayal of an unconventional internship in a contemporary scenario.

It is the tale of a bored and lonely 70-year-old widower, Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro).

He is a former telephone-directory manufacturer who after trying out a host of hobbies, which includes Tai Chi and adult education programmes like speaking Mandarin, comes across a senior internship programme for ‘About The Fit’, an e-commerce site.

Excited and eager to learn, Ben applies for the job. After successfully clearing multiple rounds of interviews, he gets selected for the post.

At the very outset of his appointment, he is informed: “An intern would be assigned to a person, a team or you may just float in the organisation.”

With a happy-to-please and a can-do attitude, Ben joins as an intern who is assigned to the heavily burdened, 30-something CEO and co-founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Nancy Meyers’ script, sprinkled with a balanced dose of situational humour, has its funny side in ample measure.

Unfortunately, the plot traverses a formulaic path. What starts off on an intriguing note, progressively gets predictable with Ben being brusquely ignored by Jules — he then, being termed as ‘Mr. Congenial’ and gradually becoming ‘Mr. Confidential’, becomes an unlikely guide dishing out life lessons — personal and professional — to the budding entrepreneur. And while Ben is years ahead of his boss and his peers, there’s no condescension to be found anywhere.

Also, with lack of volatile conflicts and drama, there is vaccuum at the core of the narration that increasingly becomes an issue. The tale, set in a near-perfect setting, is too lukewarm to scintillate.

But what keeps you hooked is the sparkling performance by the cast. There is genuine chemistry between Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. Though not romantically paired, both are brilliant together on screen.

Robert De Niro as Ben, the avuncular and bouncing-with-life geriatric, rises to the occasion. He fits into the organisation and into the lives of its flawed employees with natural ease. And what’s remarkable is that De Niro switches gears seamlessly — from the light carefree tone to a serious flushed uneasiness which stems from being concerned.

He is ably supported by Anne Hathaway. Her Jules — bogged with work, always on the move leading a chaotic life as a professional, working wife and a mother — is very cosmetic. Nevertheless, she delivers a fine performance.

As for the supporting cast — Rene Russo as the office masseur and Ben’s love interest, Linda Lavin as the other older lady having a crush on Ben along with Adam DeVine as Jason and Zack Pearlman as Davis — Ben’s office colleagues are impressive, despite having very thinly written roles.

Visually, with impeccable production designs by Kristi Zea, the film is brightly shot by Stephen Goldblatt and layered on Theodore Shapiro’s lively background score.

Overall, “The Intern” snugly fits into a bland film for a night-out.

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