Nancy Meyers is known for bringing the unexpected. She's a pro at flipping the script. In "It's Complicated," the divorced parents end up falling back in love. In "Something's Gotta Give," the boyfriend and mother end up having a fling. Her most recent film, "The Intern," is no exception.
Starring Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old intern and Anne Hathaway as the founder of a successful Internet start-up-that's-grown-up, the two forge an unlikely bond as mentor and mentee. But much of the film is about how the younger generation has much to learn about how to live well and connect with others. In many ways, it's about how to unplug.
Hathaway’s character is the stereotypical overworked, unbalanced mother. She cares deeply about her business and has grown it from the ground up. Success comes more quickly than even she anticipated.
As a result, she's always either on the phone, looking at a phone or juggling multiple phones at once. She doesn’t sleep enough, isn’t able to be with her daughter enough or connect with her husband enough -- in other words, she is pretty miserable.
Enter De Niro. A retired widower who yearns to get up and out of the house every day. De Niro’s character applies for a senior citizen internship program and becomes its shining star. He is assigned to personally assist Hathaway. She is reluctant at first, but their friendship ends up being both natural and necessary.
Issues like sleep, health and how we connect to one another are at the root of the film. One employee in passing says, “sitting is the new smoking.” The company has a full-time masseuse to help manage stress. Hathaway makes errors like sending an offensive email to the wrong person because she is multitasking. She jokingly overstates that she hasn’t “slept in two years.” Her mother, who is a sleep researcher, tells her that women who sleep less than seven hours a night are 38 percent more likely to experience major weight gain.
Meyers strikes a nerve that runs through corporate America today. People are overworked, overstressed and usually within arm's reach of their devices. According to Wired, Americans stare at screens for 11 out of 24 hours a day.
Which is precisely why "The Intern" resonates. Instead of a too-familiar plot where a young person breathes fresh air into a situation, the film rests on De Niro helping the Millennials get their lives into perspective.
He values the little things in life, like picking out a beautiful tie every morning or getting a shave at the barbershop. The film opens with De Niro practicing tai chi with a group of people in the park, and Hathaway later joins him in an uncharacteristic absence from the office. He encourages an assistant to leave the office at a normal hour to have dinner with friends.
The tagline of the film is, "Experience never gets old." De Niro's character has the experience of living a long life. He was a successful businessman, enjoyed a full marriage and raised his kids -- ages ago.
Now, facing the world alone, De Niro’s character doesn’t pity himself. He wants to find a place where he has purpose and feels connected to other people. He finds that at his internship. But what he teaches the younger generation in the film is the far more valuable lesson.
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