I love Robert De Niro. Obviously he’s been in countless classic movies; his intensity in films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas is unparalleled in both its extremity and its longevity. And I love Anne Hathaway. She has a knack for turning flatly written characters into vibrant people, like in the Princess Diaries movies, and for bringing a relatability to even the most unlikable women, such as in Rachel Getting Married.
The Intern is neither of these performers’ best movie, nor even close to it. But it happens to contain two of their best performances. Sometimes the performances are impressive because of how much they elevate the often juvenile material around them. But mostly you’re appreciative of how they each get to play fully formed adults and not mere sketches of what Hollywood think an old widower and a working mom might be like in the real world (aka not Hollywood).
Most of the intelligence and nuance can be attributed to the actors, but we can look to give some credit to Nancy Meyers as well. From The Parent Trap on through It’s Complicated, Meyers-directed movies demonstrate a lot of respect for the adult demographic and the real-life problems they face. In all her movies, those problems are mostly romantic, but while The Intern’s main characters do find themselves occupied by love’s light and dark side, we also follow De Niro as his character strives to find purpose in a world that increasingly marginalizes the elderly and Hathaway as her character struggles to maintain control over the company she started.
We can probably also give Meyers the credit for the more immature elements in the storytelling. I understand that a studio-funded movie has financial concerns that I frankly don’t care about, but some of the younger characters feel birthed straight from studio notes. “This isn’t tracking well in our under-18 demographic- get me the blind kid from Fault in Our Stars and the only funny guy in Pitch Perfect stat!” There’s nothing wrong with trying to appeal to younger audiences, but sometimes the sequences they’ve shoehorned these characters into take away from the authenticity of the De Niro and Hathaway characters.
Honestly, the studio shouldn’t have been worried about the younger demographic. The kids ain’t seeing this one. The question the studio should have asked, from the moment they saw the first dailies of De Niro and Hathaway, is why they would want to ruin a good thing.