During the pilot of this Fall’s much buzzed about Scream Queens, a teen character who is a candle vlogger (a “reviewer of candles on video,” for those of you who don’t speak YouTube) refers to a product as “A Nancy Meyers Special,” which means that “it smells of jacuzzis and menopause. I LOVE IT.” Somehow, this moment perfectly describes my (and America’s) relationship to Nancy Meyers movies. They are not so much films but sort of lifestyle porn, filled with perfect homes (usually in proximity to a coast), great hair, amazing glassware, adorable offspring (no matter the age), neurotic elderly women getting their grooves back on (and still getting that kitchen renovation done), old men whose feet are still perfectly pedicured, etc. In short, they have the effect of an Anthropologie store: nothing seems like it would quite fit, but boy, it sure smells nice so I certainly love being there. And I do keep coming back. Too many lady references for you in here, dudes? Tough luck, you ARE reading a Nancy Meyers movie review here.
Having said that, The Intern, the latest in the Meyers cottage industry, is probably the least frustrating one of all. Maybe it is because there isn’t a coast in sight and the Brooklyn setting is surprisingly down-to-Earth for the Meyers world (though, to anyone who has attempted to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn, we all know that these homes are very (VERY) expensive). Maybe it is because there is no menopause (the mood swings can sometimes be so exhausting). Maybe it is because it has Robert De Niro. Maybe it is because 2/3 of Workaholics leads and Andrew Rannells are in it (even if they’re not given a ton to do). Maybe it is because Anne Hathaway does a perfect job of showing us the woman that Andy Sachs from Devil Wears Prada would have become a decade later, and we all did care about Andy Sachs, didn’t we?
Maybe for all these reasons, and maybe for some more, but I really did enjoy The Intern. Really. And I am willing to bet my scented candle collection (that I visit at Anthopologie every other week) that you probably will, too.
The story, because there has to be a vehicle for the emotions to come, centers around 70 year old widower, former Company Man, now a bored retiree Ben Whittaker (De Niro) who enters a “senior internship” program by a Red Hook based start-up About A Fit (which sells clothes, that’s it, lets not get too complicated here). He is assigned as a personal intern to its founder Jules Ostin (Hathaway). Jules is underslept, overworked, under pressure, and the kind of gal who rides a bike in the office in between meetings because she is NOT the kind of gal who likes to waste ANY TIME. She has an adorable daughter and a slightly rumpled but also adorable stay-at-home husband (Anders Holm, perfectly conveying a certain kind of Brooklyn Dad every man in America secretly dreams of becoming until they realize they HAVE become him and then a crisis of self-worth ensues), a great brownstone that reminds her of “a house you’d see in a book,” and 200+ employees. She sees Ben as nothing short of a nuisance, a charity project that is bound to distract her from her myriad of crisis, the latest of which is that her investors want to bring in a seasoned CEO to replace her, which would mean she’d have a boss in her own company. And no amount of perfect pleated navy sweaters paired with skinny jeans is going to be able to fix that in her life.
What happens next is 150% predictable and 250% adorable: Ben makes himself helpful to everyone else in the company, becoming sort of a surrogate uncle for the unwashed, over-caffeinated, unshaven Brooklyn hipsters who work for this FASHION company, then he makes himself helpful, ever so discreetly, to Jules, and before you know it, they are a goddamn team. Then there is a myriad of crises, all of which seem pretty bad, but you know they’ll be overcome because we are in a Nancy Meyers movie, dammit, and then it is all more of less ok. Oh, and Rene Russo and Robert De Niro find love. Because, let me repeat this again, we are in a Nancy Meyers movie, and in a Nancy Meyers movie there is truly only one golden rule, “It ain’t over until two people over 60 find love.”
What helps is that the cast is perfect. De Niro is all crinkly and knowing. Hathaway is perfectly suited for almost precisely this level of neurosis. Anything more or less would ring untrue. The supporting cast is very game (there is a mini caper scene somewhere in the middle of the movie, which would have been an annoying distraction if it wasn’t put there so that Adam Devin, Zack Pearlman, and Jason Orley could spread their physical comedy wings a little and, as a result, it becomes a WELCOME distraction). And so on. You get the picture.
The movie has all sorts of flaws, don’t get me wrong. But you don’t go see a Nancy Meyers film to talk about filmmaking afterwards, you go see a Nancy Meyers movie to escape. Something’s Gotta Give aside, which is untouchable in the Meyers cannon, The Intern is, by far, the strongest escape route she’s provided us with thus far. Maybe she, like her characters, is also getting finer with age.