I had the pleasure to see an advanced screening of The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, four days before its public release, at the Landmark Sunshine Theater in the Lower East Side. De Niro didn’t show, neither did Hathaway, so instead of sharing glamorous celebrity selfies, I bring you a review through my critical lens as a professional in Career Services.
The Intern is a story of reversed roles. De Niro is Ben Whittaker, title character and hero of the story. As a recent widower, he struggles to stay still, so, at 70 years old, Ben applies for a “Senior Intern” position at an e-commerce start-up headed by a female CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). Ben begins the film with a quote from Freud: “Love and work, work and love. That’s all there is.” Having lost his love, he now seeks to fill his life with work.
Role reversals are enjoyable because the enduring qualities of a character always shine through. Ben used to be vice president of a phonebook printing company, and has decades of sales and marketing experience. He now finds himself struggling to make a “video cover letter,” work with technology, and interact with much younger colleagues in an open office space.
Ben’s enduring qualities become apparent early. He shows his personality in the video cover letter, addressing why he wants to intern and why he’d be valuable to the company, showing knowledge of the company and its vision, and quickly dispatching the obvious elephant – his age – and why it’s not a problem. While technology could have prevented him from proceeding, Ben did not allow it to; he even learns Facebook by the end of the film. Though the format of the cover letter is different, Ben shows that the content is king because delivery can always be learned. This is something we do well at Career Services: focus on each student’s strengths and then work on how to best package themselves for success.
A second enduring quality of Ben’s is his resilience and can-do attitude. He declines a transfer when Jules tells Ben outright that she’s hard to work with and that he’d have an easier time with someone else. He has no problem doing menial tasks such as delivering laundry or distributing mail. Ben doesn’t have to work, but he wants to. He has nothing to lose and much to gain. This kind of mindset should be our students’ as well. They, too, have little to lose and much to gain. The more they are challenged in their external classrooms, the more they’ll discover about their fields. Much is theirs to gain if they don’t back down from demanding bosses, challenging tasks, and even menial duties.
Ben’s other enduring qualities that initially seemed old-fashioned gradually become fashionable. Professional attire (Ben is always in suit and tie) catches on with younger colleagues. Pocket squares – stylish symbol of chivalry – become vogue again. Even Ben’s briefcase, a 1970’s leather attache, attracts a coworker to buy one off eBay. He becomes a leader not because of age but because of his demonstrated ability to work in a team, process information, organize, and solve problems. In fact, Ben hits all of the most regarded skills in interns according to the 2015 NACE Internship & Co-op Survey.
The Intern is a story of reversed roles. Ben proves the film’s tagline time and again, that “experience never grows old.” He’s 70 and a Northeastern alumnus, and outshines a 24-year-old Ivy League business graduate at a start-up. A funeral becomes an ideal place for a first date. There’s also a stay-at-home father and promiscuity among the most unlikeliest of characters, the latter likely earning this delightful comedy its PG-13 rating.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, The Intern opens nationwide on September 25, 2015, and you should see it!