The Intern ***

You've never seen Robert De Niro this adorable. Yes, I said adorable.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Many of us have a Ben in our lives. He’s 70, retired, a widower, pretty healthy and active, still reads a newspaper, can barely use a cell phone and wants to contribute to the world. His problem is finding something to do every day to feel productive. Part of the joy of “The Intern” is that it puts him in the most unlikely of places – an online women’s clothing company – but doesn’t mine the fish-out-of-water premise for laughs, instead preferring to look honestly at the situation. The movie is much better because of it.

Remember Anne Hathaway’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada”? In many ways her character in “The Intern,” Jules, is a continuation of what would have become of her Andy in “Prada.” Jules is a fashion expert who created “About The Fit,” a fashion company that shot to great success in a mere 18 months. For no good reason – seriously, none is ever given – the company decides to hire senior citizen interns. Ben (Robert De Niro) is hired for Jules. She’s too busy to care.

But what smartly, gradually transpires is Ben proving his worth, first in small ways, then in larger ones. Soon Jules takes a liking to him, and they grow close. Ben meets her husband (Anders Holm) and daughter (JoJo Kushner) and assists in business decisions, but wisely never prods or oversteps his bounds. His restraint is admirable. He just wants to be needed, and knows it’s not his place to impose his two cents. He does the same thing with co-workers (Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Christina Scherer) who seek his advice, and to an extent with the company masseuse/love interest, Fiona (Rene Russo).

Ironically, Ben has every right to dish out advice. He had a happy 42-year marriage before his wife died, and was vice president of sales and marketing at his old company. These things should have people running to Ben for help. Granted, Ben’s career was in creating phone books, which no longer exist. Can you imagine working most of your life in a profession that no longer exists? No wonder Ben still strives to make an impact on the world.

Solid as the story and Hathaway’s performance are, “The Intern” really clicks because De Niro is so adorable. That’s right – adorable (bet you never thought you’d read those words to describe him). The man who famously played psychopaths, boxers, gangsters and other tough guys gives his finest late-career performance as an intern. There’s nothing flashy or showy here, but De Niro embodies Ben with the right amount of humility and grace for us to immediately like him and wish him the best. De Niro’s chemistry with Hathaway works, but really the movie is enjoyable overall because of him.

The film was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who previously made “Something Gotta Give” (2003) and “It’s Complicated” (2009), so it’s safe to say she’s comfortable with senior-based stories driven by warmth and humor. “The Intern” is a sweet, touching movie that’s good for the soul.

Did you know?
De Niro walked out of an interview with Britain’s “Radio Times” after what he called repeated “negative inferences.” Read more about it here:

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