On occasion, there are too many movies out that fit to print in The Citizens’ Voice and Standard-Speaker. For those times, Rebecca and Tamara will offer quick takes on recently watched movies. Today, Rebecca offers a long take of “The Intern” and short takes on three other films.
“The Intern” (2015): 4 out of 5 stars. In theaters.
“The Intern” is adorable and utterly charming. The delightful comedy explores the generation gap between co-stars and Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. The initially odd couple turns into a dynamic duo as the two play beautifully off each other.
Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, the 30-something founder of an Internet fashion company who’s involved in every detail of running her business. De Niro plays 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker, who’s retired but looking to get back into the daily grind. When Ben joins Ostin’s company as a “senior” intern, he not only becomes an uncle to the young staff, but a confidant to Jules, who gradually opens up as she tries to juggle her duties as CEO, wife and mother.
Smartly written and directed by Nancy Meyers, “The Intern” blends feminist themes with an appreciation for chivalry, and realistically shows the two can co-exist without taking away from each other. In fact, they work together.
Jules has a lot on her plate as a working mother and her family’s breadwinner, but the film makes it clear that she shouldn’t have to sacrifice part of her life in order to enrich another part. Ben admires Jules’ accomplishments, knowing from his own experience the rewards of hard work. But he’ll be the first to give her a handkerchief when the situation calls for it. For Ben, his “old-school” manner is a matter of respect – wearing a suit even to a casual workplace, standing up when Jules enters the room, and ringing the beautiful and close-in-age office masseuse (Rene Russo).
De Niro shines in a role outside the veteran actor’s comfort zone. Ben guides the office’s sloppy millennial staff – Adam DeVine, Jason Orley and fellow intern Zach Pearlman – in matters of the heart, professionalism and day-to-day living. De Niro teaches and imparts respect, a trait admired by Jules when she compares Ben to Harrison Ford and other actors of a manly and put-together generation. He grows to become Jules’ best friend and trusted adviser not only in business, but in her personal life when the film takes a serious turn.
Nine years after Hathaway’s ingénue turn in “The Devil Wears Prada,” the roles are reversed and she’s now playing the woman in charge. But Jules hasn’t lost her soul like Miranda Priestly. The versatile Hathaway plays Jules as a CEO who cares so much about her customers, daughter (JoJo Kushner) and husband (Anders Holm) that she’s willing to lose sleep to be everything to everyone. She needs someone like Ben to remind her to eat and take time for herself, and that it’s OK to do so. As strong as Jules is, Hathaway also shows the character’s vulnerability and makes her relatable to those of us trying to balance lives in and outside of work.
The supporting cast also excels. Russo is lovely as Fiona, who embarks on a romance with Ben as they address the expectations of dating later in life. DeVine, Orley and Pearlman are appealing as the clueless young men who learn from Ben. Andrew Rennells (“Girls”) is a cool and calm presence as Jules’ right-hand man. Christina Scherer makes an impression as Jules’ wired assistant who yearns to do more with her business skills.
“The Intern” is a feel-good movie that will pull on your heartstrings. I enjoyed De Niro and Hathaway’s tender performances so much that the unlikely pairing is one of my favorites in any movie this year.
“About Elly” (2009): 4.5 stars. Streaming on Netflix.
I saw “About Elly” at the Dietrich Theater’s recent fall film festival. A tense, gorgeously shot thriller, “About Elly” focuses on a group of friends who go away for the weekend when the young teacher who joins them mysteriously vanishes. The Iranian film is from Asghar Farhadi, writer and director of the highly acclaimed “A Separation” (2011). The suspense-filled mystery weaves a tale of lies and consequences, showing how half-truths can snowball and the disintegration of the relationships involved. The waves crashing along the beach seem peaceful at first, then increase in intensity as the story spins out of the characters’ control. In “About Elly,” I was unclear at first how the characters were connected to one another (friends, not family). Apart from that, “About Elly” is an expertly crafted mystery with enough twists and turns that will challenge you in regard to the characters’ morals and motivations.
“World War Z” (2013): 4 stars. Amazon Instant Video.
“World War Z” is an atypical zombie film full of heart-stopping moments and stunning action sequences. Brad Pitt plays a former United Nations investigator pulled back into the fray when the zombie apocalypse arrives, trying to track down the start of the virus, find a cure and save his family. Pitt grounds the film as the no-nonsense operative traveling the world and collecting an oral history of how the virus spread. The film boasts chilling sequences including the initial chaos during traffic-filled streets in Philadelphia, and a fast-spreading outbreak aboard an airplane, both which had me calling out to my screen. Despite its urgency, the film lacks the blood and guts that most zombie films have, which isn’t a problem for me, but could be for die-hard fans of the genre. “World War Z” gets a little predictable in its third act, but it was so compelling and well-executed that I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to the film’s sequel.
“Playing It Cool” (2014): 1.5 stars. Starz.
The disappointing “Playing It Cool” tries to subvert the romantic comedy genre, but instead succumbs to the very tropes it’s trying to poke fun at. The dull rom com follows a womanizer who’s never been in love (Chris Evans) who meets his match, a woman in a committed relationship who isn’t quite ready to commit (Michelle Monaghan). Evans is incredibly charming as the film’s narrator, a screenwriter working on a romantic comedy who envisions himself in his friends’ stories and sees his own heart as a chain-smoking lurker. He and Monaghan have a nice, easy chemistry, but her character is unlikable as the soon-to-be-married woman leading him on. The vignettes of Evans dressed up like his friends is original, for sure, but also just weird – I’m not sure they add much to the story. It’s nice to see Topher Grace as one of Evans’ more level-headed, sensitive friends. Anthony Mackie plays Evans’ repugnant agent. The movie may be more notable for the number of comic book film reunions that occur in it – Monaghan’s fiancée, played by Ioan Gruffudd, acted with Evans in two “Fantastic Four” movies, and Mackie and Evans starred in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – than for any lasting impact it will have on the romantic comedy genre. For Chris Evans fans only.