Christian Movie Review
The famous director and screenwriter Nancy Meyers — the Hollywood powerhouse behind such classics as “Private Benjamin,” “Father of the Bride,” “Father of the Bride II,” “The Parent Trap,” and “Something’s Gotta Give” and more recent popular films “The Holiday” and “It’s Complicated” — is back after a six year hiatus with “The Intern,” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, with this plot: “70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (De Niro) has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Hathaway).”
Parental Guidance Content at a Glance for this PG-13 rated film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality and Romance: No actual sex scenes. One is implied between a married couple. A woman giving a man a leg massage is seen from behind, and the camera angle makes it look like she’s giving the man a sexual favor, which is played for laughs. The same man receives other massages, and the woman touches him in suggestive ways. A man is seen kissing a woman that’s not his wife. A character talks about accidentally sleeping with the roommate of the girl he likes. After the masseuse massages a man suggestively, it causes him to be physically aroused, and the camera shows it briefly.
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: None.
Language: One f-word. Two a-words. One b-word spoken. One b-word written in an email that we see on-screen. Once partially spelled out f-word seen on-screen. Several uses of God’s name. A woman flips a man off and mouths “f-you.”
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Characters are seen drinking a wide range of alcoholic drinks in social settings and in the home.
(Review continues below)
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
For purely entertainment purposes, “The Intern” exceeds in what it tries to accomplish: 1) create nuanced, believable characters, 2) make you love them, and 3) bring you closely alongside these characters through a memorable story with unexpected twists (the kind of twists and turns that get you hooked and make you wait eagerly to see what happens next).
Also, after seeing this movie, there are three things that are undeniable:
- Nancy Meyers has an emotional intelligence equal to the IQ of Stephen Hawking. All of her movies display a careful nuance and thorough awareness of a character’s emotions.
- Robert De Niro’s character Ben Whittaker will make everyone who sees this wish they could quit their job and just work in an office with Ben. (Not work with De Niro, mind you, but with the wonderfully endearing character that he creates in Whittaker.)
- Ann Hathaway can make an entire theater full of people laugh or cry at a moment’s notice. Her power is almost frightening.
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, the Question of “Spiritual Edification,” Etc.
Interestingly, the movie begins with the main character, Ben Whittaker, quoting Sigmund Freud who said this about the meaning of life: “love and work…work and love, that’s all there is.” The quote, however, works more as a set-up for a joke as Whittaker finishes the quote by saying, “Well, my wife died, and I’m retired now.” However, I might say the film quietly agrees with Freud. It spends all of its time examining the joys and sorrows of work and love. However — and I have to give the film credit — what it does examine in those two areas it examines with thoughtful tenderness.
And in comparison to many of today’s mainstream Hollywood movies, the film presents an unusual commitment toward the idea of marriage, of devoting yourself to your spouse and doing everything in your power to make the marriage work even when it suffers devastating wounds. I found this to be both heart-wrenching (as we watch a few of the characters suffer emotionally) but also refreshing and encouraging in a culture that treats relationships like disposal fast food items.
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH]
That being said, it also takes a look at what it means for a woman to be the career person in a household and a man to be the parent at home. The film, like its characters, takes a complicated, nuanced view of the issue. Jules clearly doesn’t want to make her career more important than her family, but she is clearly a workaholic who puts in a tremendous amount of hours at her job and often arrives home when everyone else is asleep, which clearly damages her relationships with them. She initially wants to reduce her work hours because she finds out her husband is having an affair, and she thinks if she spends more time with her family she can save the marriage. But then, at the end of the film, her husband, after stopping the affair and begging forgiveness, steps in and insists that she keep her job the way it is and not lose her top spot in her company. However, before the whole affair issue even comes up, the film depicts clearly that her workaholic habits are eating into valuable evening hours with her family — affair or no affair. That seems to be a legitimate problem in her relationships with her husband and daughter, but by the end of the film, instead of reducing her work hours, she keeps everything the same. So the film seems to present a problem — her extreme workaholic habits that put her family on the back-burner of her life — that never really gets resolved. However, the film’s final scene sort of implies that Ben would keep his prominent role in the company and help her relax and manage her work better so she can spend more time with her family. It doesn’t spell it out, however, so it’s not totally clear if her workaholic tendencies remain a problem or not.
[END OF SPOILER ALERT]
The film also had a few interesting things to say about how modern 21st century culture has completely transformed the masculinity of the average male. It observes how our culture has somehow produced a man-child nation rather than a nation of men. The film doesn’t dig too deep into this question or try to answer why or how; it just makes an observation that so many grown males today embrace hobbies, behaviors, and dress codes that are more appropriate for adolescent boys. It asks a fair question: where have all the masculine males gone (and it lists off a few symbols of classic masculinity like Harrison Ford and Humphrey Bogart)?
Conclusion: A Memorable, Often Delightful Journey Into the Lives of Two Very Different Characters
Seeing the worlds of Ben Whittaker and Jules Ostin collide is the most delightful part of this movie. You can’t help but l
ove these people as if they were personal friends. These are two of the warmest, most living and breathing modern day characters I’ve seen in a big budget mainstream movie this year. If you don’t get emotionally invested in their story, you may not have a pulse.
And although I can’t give this an all-ages family-friendly stamp of approval (see Parental Guidance section above) — and though there’s a certain postmodern Freudian-inspired emptiness at times (see Worldview section) — adults who enjoy fish-out-of-water, character-driven movies with the best actors money can buy will find plenty to like in this film.
And they will really really wish they could just get a job working in an office with Ben Whittaker.
My rating for “The Intern”: [usr 6.5] (See my notes below on the rating scale.)
[NOTE from the author of this article: If you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis or U2, please be sure to read my new blog Stabs of Joy, which explores 18 C.S. Lewis books and 13 U2 albums to answer one question: how do we really experience Christ’s joy — and not just talk about it — during seasons of sorrow and difficulty?]
Note about my rating system for the movie’s film craft and entertainment value:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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