Learning from ‘The Intern’

I’ll admit it. I’ve been known to enjoy a Nancy Meyers movie every once in a while. If you’ve ever seen “It’s Complicated” you know what I mean.

Meyers’ movies may not feature the same characters but they usually have the same style and feel to them. And they’re always about successful white people. Her films are often romantic, yet surprisingly different than other rom coms out there. Of course her latest venture, “The Intern,” isn’t exactly a romantic comedy in the classic sense.

It is a comedy and it has a bit of romance in it, but it’s more about the romance of age, working, and learning rather than two people awkwardly falling in love. And that makes it so much more relatable.

“The Intern” tells the story of Ben (Robert De Niro for the win!), a retired phonebook publisher who is bored out of his mind and lonely after his wife’s death. He enrolls in a senior internship program for Jules’ (Anne Hathaway) Internet company. Odd, sure. Realistic? Maybe not, but even though Ben is 70, he reminded me a lot of someone: me. It wasn’t too long ago that I was an intern and with my new job and adult life I still feel like I’m trying to figure my professional life out and how my personal life does and does not fit into it. And I was reminded of a few things while watching “The Intern” this weekend:

You’re always learning. No matter what age, we’re always discovering new things and that is totally OK. Ben is learning about Internet-based start-ups and Jules is learning about slowing down and being a real human being. After all, that’s all we ever want to do, right? Figure out what the hell is happening to us?

Respect is important. At first I was worried that my heartstrings would be pulled too much at the beginning of the movie with people commenting on Ben’s age and inability to cope with his new internship. But Meyers surprises and uses characters like Zack Pearlman and Adam DeVine (LOVE HIM) that interact with De Niro and generally show him respect. In fact, they show him so much respect that they quickly become obsessed with learning things from him. Respect everyone in your work environment. You’ll never know what they may teach you (and what you can teach them).

Anne Hathaway is wonderful. I truly don’t understand “Hatha-haters.” Anne Hathaway was the princess of Genovia and an Oscar winner and she should demand our respect. Sure, she may be a bit dorky in real life, but who isn’t? While watching her in “The Intern” I was reminded of the only thing that matters: She’s a great actress.

Everything has cracks. Jules’ fancy Internet fashion company is fast-growing and she can’t possibly keep up with it. “The Intern” puts an interesting idea in motion with Jules’ struggle to be the boss and keep learning at the same time. The idea that hipster start-ups, although cool, efficient, and totally acceptable big or little business ventures in todays standards, are also extremely hard to manage, even when they’re successful. As a person who has often struggled with finding a professional space that fits me, I appreciated Meyers’ depiction of life as a hipster start-up owner who rides a bike through the open office loft space. She shows that although that look may seem cool in the movies, it’s really just as stressful as any other working environment.

Perfect endings are boring and unrealistic. I saw “The Intern” with a group of good friends and after it was over all we could talk about was the fact that Jules forgave her husband played by Anders Holm (hello “Workaholics” bros all over the place!) for cheating on her. SPOILER: they end up staying together at the end of the film with the promise to work things out. At first I was inclined to think the obvious; “Girl, dump his ass! You’ve got your new bestie/intern Ben! That’s all you really need!” But the more I thought about the ending of the film the more I realized that it was one of the most realistic endings I’ve seen in a while. In real life people don’t always give Aaron Sorkin-like speeches and kick toxic people to the curb. And, if I’m being honest, I didn’t totally hate Jules’ husband. He was a good representation of how stressful her life had become because of her company. Whether it sends a good or bad message is beyond the point. It was more than likely the choice a character from real life would have made.

New jobs are weird. Speaking from experience, being the new person in the office is weird. You’re trying to learn and pick up things as you go along while everyone else is settled in their jobs. You still haven’t figured out your day-to-day routines and it feels like you’re an outsider trying to squeeze into a new friend group. I related to the way Ben had to adjust and learn about his surroundings.

I would recommend “The Intern.” It’s lighthearted and delightfully funny, while also making you think. And whether you’re young or old, you’ll find the odd realities that are common to your world wonderfully placed. It’s about time we had a movie that showcases real life problems.


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