Things an employer is not supposed to ask on a job interview have always included, “What is your ATM PIN number?” and, “Are those real?” Writer/Director Nancy Meyers adds another in “The Intern,” her new generational comedy: Don’t ask an octogenarian “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
About the Fit, an online fashion site, is embracing a community outreach program to tap into the skills of retired seniors. One of the more promising candidates is Ben Whitaker (Robert De Niro), a recent widower and one-time executive. He so impresses the twenty-somethings in charge that he is assigned to the company’s workaholic founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) though she has control issues that make it difficult for him to help.
Whitaker’s experience is a stabilizing force for the fledgling company whose investors are angling to bring in replacement leadership. He’s also the only one Jules grows to rely on for both corporate and personal matters. He is at once her consigliere, Sherpa and BFF.
Director Meyers famously lamented the Hollywood formula in which “the childish man can still get the interesting, smart woman.” In 2009, she crafted the critically-acclaimed “It’s Complicated,” brilliantly empowering Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin with her deliberate, mature and more plausible brand of humor.
It’s something she brings here, as well, though the focus frequently drifts from De Niro’s basic need to feel useful and his relationship with an older masseuse (Rene Russo) to Hathaway’s calamitous attempt to have it all — a shift in focus that might leave this one’s core demographic shaking their heads.
Linda Lavin co-stars as Whitaker’s dogging neighborhood flame, who surprisingly steals some of the film’s best gags. (Tease: “You brought a date to a funeral?”)
Overall, regrettably, fewer laughs than expected, though they vary from the bankable grandfather-knows-best (as the office pajama boys’ only role model, De Niro schools them in the art of dressing and women) to clever (a mission to delete an embarrassing email gets the Steven Soderbergh treatment).