Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Intern (2015)


A spiritual sequel to Working Girl, The Intern is a moral, feel-good fantasy that touches on two of our favorite topics: the changing nature of work, and BUSINESS FEMINISM (yyaaaayy). The Intern is more earnest and optimistic than Working Girl, but its scope is also more expansive.

Jules (Anne Hathaway) is the smart, impassioned founder of an exploding, StitchFix-like fashion tech company in Brooklyn. She's firing on all cylinders and her company is a spot-on caricature of today's tech world: giant, open plan warehouse office, army lines of iMacs, endless screens of fashion clothing and code, code, glorious code! Also Millennials, every which way! Millennials being awkward and snarky! Oh, the youths. Oh, you sillies.

Into this silicon spritz world steps 70-year-old Ben (Robert DeNiro), the company's first "senior intern". The film opened with Ben, and he's basically the Platonic ideal of a senior citizen: hale and hearty, handsome and active, there just isn't enough to do for this uber-mensch out to pasture. Wise and funny, warm and gentlemanly, he carries the best parts of a bygone Golden Era where men groomed well and treated women chivalrously - but he's also, magically, unicornly, completely updated in his feminist thinking.

He is - and we hate that we can't find it on Google - what Jungians? Freudians? some psychoanalysts would call the Empathetic Sage Fantasy. You know when shit is tough and your life seems to be sucking and you JUST WISH Obi-Wan Kenobi or Gandalf or some other kindly grandfatherly type would just be in your corner for a while? Fighting your fight for you, calling you "champ"? Ben is that guy. He is that archetype. And while Jules starts drowning under her mountain of work (there are only so many hours in the day!), juggling a young family at home too, she quickly recognizes that Uber-Gandalf has just walked into her life - and everything will now be OK.

The main themes of the film center on being a smart, energetic businesswoman in a world where the glass ceiling is still there and women need to worry about "having it all" and dying alone - and that certainly hit us right here - but there are some very deft sub-themes about what work used to mean, and what it means now. Of course, Ben brings only the best of the bygone era: he is diligent, organized, methodical, and has a laser focus. No nagging notification bells for him; no Internet-eroded attention span! This man knows how to work. He is also humble, gracious, excited about having A Job. It's touching - it's heartwarming - it sets itself as a counterpoint to the (myth?) more modern ideas of "finding your passion". Of course, Jules is following her bizniz passion - the whole movie's about that - but we still appreciate any tiny ways we can find those narratives. (See our Jiro Dreams of Sushi review for much more on Labor Stuff.)

Anyway. Ben also knows how to flirt (just groom!), and there is much gentle mockery of the extended adolescence of Millennial men ("Boys! Boys?!" Jules cries in one scene).

It's indulgent, it's less edgy than Working Girl (which remains primero in our Business Feminism sub-category), but it's joyous and presents a world where we get it all: endlessly scrolling code, free beer in the fridge, the zing of good business, and - as DeNiro says in one wonderful moment - that "bright, beautiful thing" of creating a great biz. On to Warren Buffet next!