I’ll come clean straight away, we have two problems here. In my humble opinion Nany Meyers’ The Holiday was a true low point in cinema, an absolutely wretched affair – lazy, clichéd, corny, utterly without charm and with dialled in performances. Problem 2 is the De Niro syndrome – what on earth happened to the actor who everyone agreed was the finest of his generation. Pacino has his many fans, but De Niro admirers simply mutter Raging Bull and that’s the argument won. So how has this man gone from that peak to decades, literally decades, of mediocre, middling dramas and simply unfunny comedies?
Actually there’s a third problem here, the film’s central idea, which has, in true Hollywood tradition, been done before, and very recently. It’s The Devil Wears Prada, but this time with Anne Hathaway in the Meryl Streep role, and De Niro in the junior position lately vacated by the over-promoted…Anne Hathaway!
Here it’s De Niro who is bored with retirement – ‘I tried everything, Mandarin, yoga’ – is that really everything? So he goes back to work, as the world’s oldest intern in Hathaway’s firm, and guess what? She is having a crisis and need a bit of guidance, a bit of help, a bit of – experience. Well, guess who can provide that?
Having said all that though, The Intern isn’t actually all that bad. De Niro and Hathaway do have some chemistry, and their characters remain sympathetic even though they don’t really deserve to – she is impossibly wealthy and spoilt, he is just dull with no real insight into the world. A man who takes his own bathrobe to a five-star hotel is an idiot, not an old-school charmer. There are some serious points lurking under the glossy surface too, the role of the 70-pluses in our ecommerce society, and how difficult it is for modern mums to juggle work and home life. The trouble is in Meyer’s world they are never seriously explored, just brushed on until we get into the next scene about the importance of a man carrying a handkerchief and, well, being a man.
The real problem here is that it just isn’t funny, mainly due to Meyer’s insistence on scenes dragging out far too long and going nowhere. One scene has Hathaway admiring her own house for about three minutes – eh? Then there’s De Niro’s revelation that he used to work in this very same building when it was a warehouse – wow! And…oh, that’s it. Another has De Niro breaking into her mother’s house to delete an email, presumably an attempt to inject some physical comedy into proceeding. The result is toe-curlingly unfunny, just like the rest of the film. When Rene Russo gives De Niro a massage and it is mistaken for a sex act you know the laughter barrel is having its bottom firmly scraped.
Meyers continually makes references to how hard it is for women to succeed in business, but the best advice she could be given is to write a decent script for once, then we’ll all take you seriously. She waffles, flannels and drones on for far too long, and it’s up to the charm of our two heroes to keep the thing moving.
De Niro actually bothers to keep his eyes open for this one, and turns on the charm, although the references to other films are wearisome. Hathaway too manages to avoid being completely annoying, difficult when her character is a pernickety, highly-strung clothes bore. Incidentally her company has been such a success because it makes clothes that actually fit women, but bizarrely she appears in several outfits with a very unflattering cut that make her look more like a student than a CEO. There’s also the usual Meyers waffle about marriages going bad, with Hathaway’s dorky house husband having a wandering eye. Even she admits ‘he’s acting out, right’ – yeah, duh.
Overall verdict: Despite the charm of its two leads this is a flabby, overlong bore of a film that goes nowhere very, very slowly. With 45 minutes cut out of it and a tighter script it could have made its mark, but sadly it remains a test for the most patient viewer.
Reviewer: Mike Martin