The Intern

"I'll see your Raging Bull weight gain and raise you a Les Mis shaved head."

“I’ll see your Raging Bull weight gain and raise you a Les Mis shaved head.”

(2015) Comedy (Warner Brothers) Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm, JoJo Kushner, Andrew Rannells, Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley, Christina Scherer, Nat Wolff, Linda Lavin, Celia Weston, Steve Vinovich, C.J. Wilson, Mary Kay Place, Erin Mackey, Christina Brucato, Wallis Currie-Wood, Molly Bernard, Paulina Singer. Directed by Nancy Meyers

Our culture is going from youth-oriented to youth-obsessed. We tend to marginalize the elderly, joke about their inability to decipher technology. As much as we dismiss the elderly, at the same time we don’t want to die young either. We want to live long, full lives. We also tend to ignore that in order to do that, we have to age.

Ben Whittaker (De Niro) has done that. He’s aged. He turns around and finds himself to be 70 and alone, his beloved wife passed on, retired from a successful 40-year career printing phone books. Even the industry he devoted so much of his life to has gone the way of the horse and buggy.

He tries to fill his days with tai chi sessions, Mandarin lessons and lattes. He also finds himself spending an unsettling amount of time at the funerals of his friends. He is busy but curiously unfulfilled. Even some flirtations with a lady his age (Lavin) – most of the flirtation coming from her end – leave him empty and even more cognizant that his life lacks something.

Ben has the wisdom to figure out that what he’s missing is purpose. Getting up early and going around and doing nothing productive just isn’t in his genetic code. When he sees an ad one day for senior interns at an e-commerce women’s fashion company, he decides to go for it.

Jules Ostin (Hathaway) is the CEO and founder of About the Fit, an online store that guarantees its clients that the close they buy will fit them precisely. How she does that is a miracle of epic proportions but hey, this is Hollywood so just go with it. Anyway, she doesn’t particularly need nor want an intern of any age but especially one who’s older and reminds her that her mother (Place) is judgmental and hyper-critical of her success. Jules is a bit of a workaholic whose company in 18 months has become a real player in e-commerce and has grown to more than 200 employees. The investors are beginning to get nervous; not despite the success but because of it. They don’t know if Jules has the experience and drive to grow the company into the next level so they are pushing to get an experienced CEO who can take them there.

Jules doesn’t necessarily want that to happen but on the other hand she is tired of being absent in her own home. Her husband Matt (Holm) is a paragon of support, giving up his own promising career to let her soar with eagles. Their cute as a button daughter Paige (Kushner) misses her mommy but seems cheerfully resigned to the fact that she doesn’t get to see her much.

Jules is a bit of a control freak and is looking for reasons that the easygoing Ben should not be her intern; he’s too observant, she complains to her right hand man (Rannells) as she orders a transfer but she soon comes to realize that Ben has become indispensable, giving her the confidence to be a better boss, a better wife and a better mom but will she learn the lessons Ben has to teach her in time to save her business…and her family?

Richard Roeper describes director Nancy Meyers as “reliable” and he’s right on that score. She doesn’t get the credit she deserves but yet she turns out consistently entertaining films albeit on the lightweight side but that may also be the secret of her success; even her movies with somewhat weighty topics (as this one which looks at women in the workplace) tend to be low-key and rarely rock the boat with strident opinions.

Here she is given the opportunity to take on how working women tackling entrepreneurial success are treated and the answer is pretty much not well, but she doesn’t hit her audience in the face with that revelation (which isn’t a revelation at all, really) but rather allows you to come to that conclusion organically. The point here is that there is a balance between career and family that can be achieved and when it is, both thrive but when out of balance, both suffer. It’s not really a subversive point at all and yet she sneaks it in out of left field with few people noticing at all that she’s actually communicating with her audience. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman?

De Niro has had some forgettable performances in the last decade but it’s forgiven because, hey, he’s De Niro. That’s not the case her as he utilizes his expressive face to go beyond the script with a well-timed roll of the eyes, shrug of the shoulder or grimace, he creates a character that’s living. That’s a good thing because Ben as written is a little too perfect to be believed; he always knows the right thing to say, do or be. He’s the magical Grandpa.

He also has great chemistry with Hathaway who also is a very emotional actress. The two have a great moment when discussing their marriages in a hotel room while on a business trip to San Francisco to interview a potential CEO (don’t ask why an intern would be on such a trip or how he got into her hotel room while both are in pajamas and robes), but Hathaway reminds us in those moments why she is such a powerhouse actress and along with Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams is the cream of the crop of talented young actresses that has come to the forefront of Hollywood the last five years or so.

There is a lot of contrivance in the plot which I suppose is to be expected because the story is so thoroughly a fairy tale but if that kind of thing doesn’t bother you and you don’t mind feeling the warm fuzzies as you exit the theater (or, if you are reading this a year from when this was published, as you turn off your TV or computer), this might just be what the doctor ordered. Da Queen found it to be much more than she expected from the trailer and I understand what she means; while Meyers can’t help the old fart jokes that pepper the film, there’s also a healthy respect for the difference between experience and wisdom that Hollywood sometimes mistakes for one another.

REASONS TO GO: Heartwarming without getting too treacly. Good chemistry between De Niro and Hathaway.
REASONS TO STAY: Ben is a little too perfect. Kind of fairy tale-esque.
FAMILY VALUES: Some sexually suggestive content and brief rough language.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The lead roles were at one time held by Jack Nicholson and Reese Witherspoon.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/6/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 60% positive reviews. Metacritic: 51/100.
NEXT: Meet the Patels


Film Geek

Film Geek

When you're Scottie Pelk, the whole world is awesome. Not.

(First Run) Melik Malkasian, Tyler Gannon, John Breen, Tara Walker, Taylor Nida, Michelle Garner, Matt Morris. Directed by James Westby

We all have our obsessions. They are the things that interest most, that we devote the most time to. For the most part, these things are harmless diversions but for some those obsessions take over their lives. They become geeks.

Scottie Pelk (Malkasian) is a film geek. He knows the minutiae about nearly every major film ever made. He can discourse on the facts and figures about nearly every director of note. He has a fierce love for foreign and independent filmmakers, and won’t hesitate to recommend films that, for the average person, are obscure or unwelcome but are the meat and potatoes for the cinema intelligentsia.

As bright and informed as he is about all things cinematic, he is as awkward socially. His voice is an effeminate nasal whine that is guaranteed to grate on anyone’s nerves. His conversations are concerned with only one subject and one alone. There are few people in his hometown of Portland who can keep up on the subject with him – hell, there are few people anywhere.

He is so annoying that he gets fired from his beloved job at the video store. The two other clerks Taylor (Nida) and Kaitlin (Walker) can’t stand him, and his boss Mr. Johnson (Breen) despises him. And now, he has nowhere to go. He lives at his apartment, masturbating at the thought of his pretty but shallow neighbor Cindi (Garner). With no jobs open at any neighborhood video store, he reluctantly accepts a job as a shipping clerk at an auto parts facility.

While taking a bus he meets Nico (Gannon), a hip artist who is reading a book about David Cronenberg, one of Scottie’s heroes. He is moved to actually speak to her and ask her out. At first, she sees him as something of a curiosity, essentially harmless but not really much more than that, but as she gets to know him she realizes that despite his one-track mind he is an essentially sweet boy with no social graces. Still, why would anyone want to wind up with a film geek?

Director Westby shot this in and around downtown Portland with essentially a local cast. The budget is probably roughly the same that most studio films spend on office supplies but Westby gets some surprising performances out of his cast.

Malkasian creates a character that is repulsive to a lot of people. They see him as terminally annoying, impossible to love and for sure, it takes a great leap of faith to see something in Scottie the way Nico does. Still, one has to admire Scottie. He has a fierce loyalty to his muse that withstands every challenge. He never wavers, never doubts. He is like the perfect lover, one who will never stray from the woman he loves. There’s something beautiful in that.

Some critics have complained the Scottie is too annoying, too nerdy but I’ve known some Scottie Pelks in my time and you simply have to learn to deal with them on their own level. Not all of them have been film geeks – some have been music geeks, sports geeks and videogame geeks. Relating to them is a matter of relating to their obsession and once you can do that, you have a friend for life.

The problem with Scottie is that while he can recite filmographies like a walking, talking IMDB, he takes nothing from the films he sees other than that they are awesome. It is his one-word review for movies that he uses regularly. He can’t or doesn’t articulate much more than that. Movies to him are a matter of spreadsheets and statistics.

Movies are of course much more than that. They can move you, transport you and inspire you; they can give you insight into your world and into your self. I think that Westby understands that much more than Scottie does, because he gives us a movie that has a great deal of insight. Scottie Pelk isn’t the easiest to like character ever written; he isn’t easy to understand either. However, those who take time to look beyond the annoying mannerisms, the nasal voice and the robotic, monotonic delivery of statistics will find someone there who can give one insight into the life of a geek, and in some small way, into our own obsessions.

WHY RENT THIS: A quirky but endearing film about the sort of person we all know.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A very lo-fi production with an unbelievable romance at its center.

FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of male rearview nudity and sexuality as well as some foul language make this unsuitable for younger audiences, who this was never intended for anyway.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie is loosely based on Westby’s experiences working in a video store.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a short film shot by Westby starring Malkasian called The Auteur regarding the attempt of a director to record a DVD commentary track. It’s reasonably funny.


TOMORROW: The Bounty Hunter