Robert De Niro is such an acting legend that I would not pass up any opportunity to watch a movie in which he appears — whether in serious roles like The Untouchables, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter and Cape Fear or in comedies like The Wedding Party, Las Vegas, Silver Linings Playbook and Grudge Match.
In The Intern, De Niro plays the widower Ben who joins the senior intern (an outreach) programme at a hip fashion e-commerce website founded by tightly wound go-getter Anne Hathaway (Jules). He decides to come out of retirement because it is not something he understands: “There’s a hole in my life and I need to fill it” with more than “golf, books, yoga, Mandarin, funerals” and “travel to San Diego to visit my son and his family”. He needs a place to go every day as he has been “a company man all my life”. My favourite quote comes early in the movie when he speaks of how “Musicians don’t retire. They stop only when they have no more music in them. Well, I still have music in me.”
Ben is an intern with a lifetime of experience. He is Mr Congeniality, a big hit in the office, although his younger co-workers underestimate him at first because of his age. He feels “like everybody’s uncle here”. He believes in keeping busy because “there’s no point to living if you’re not going to do anything”.
Ben also believes “you’re never wrong to do the right thing,” quoting Mark Twain. He is an embodiment of the gentleman of yore, a dying breed. He is humble, kind and generous. As he says, “Look and learn, boys, because this is what cool is.” This is the old school value of learning from each other. He is also “a sensitive man though I don’t look like it”. He sorely misses his wife of 43 years, but ‘Such is life”.
As the focus of this movie is on the intern, I shall not elaborate on Anne Hathaway’s character, except to mention one business trip. The movie she watched on TV in her hotel room is Singing In The Rain! (See my last blog post.) The scene between Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds is the duet in which he sings encouraging words to her, telling her not to give up her dreams. It appropriately reflects the scene here in which Ben reminds her that “ATF (name of the company) needs you and you need it. It’s your dream. Are you going to give it up?” and she comments that he is such a comfort and that “it’s moments like this that you need someone you can count on” and this person is Ben.
Also appropriate is the selection of the songs and music used in the movie: I, Closer, Deed I Do, These Foolish Things, It’s Real, Girl from Ipanema, Ain’t Misbehavin’, theme from Ocean’s 11, Boogie Shore and so on, to represent the past and present days.