CRUMBLIES… 3 crumblies

Nancy Meyers strikes again. From the pen of Something’s Gotta Give, this moves up a generation and tells the modern daydream of a 70 year-old widower returning to work and gaining the trust and adoration of a new generation. At least, that’s how I choose to think of it, and old Jack here watched The Intern twice. And in a state of charmed stupefaction.

At one level, this is trite, silly and unbelievable. Robert De Niro, here as Ben Whittaker, all calm and gently knowing, is a solid old soul, bringing calm and containment to the rushed modern world of a trendy-office clothing company. It is 18 months old. So are most of the employees. He is a Political Correctness sacrifice, a senior intern, who builds the trust of the dynamic and creative boss until she gives into his Dad-charm.  The staff give in first: they need his advice, guidance and telling hesitations to get on with their small life decisions. He has a magic smile and is impossibly wise. In a not-irritating way.

The boss is Anne Hathaway (Jules!). She is grinny and brilliant, busy with job and a mixed-up family life. There are sexual politics playing under the surface as her house husband (they prefer stay-at-home dad) quietly betrays her, but the key theme is ‘superwoman’ exhaustion. She works too hard, can’t give up the company, is entrenched after the (unbelievable) 18 months and just needs a good assistant. De Niro supplies. He does Dad, he does Grandpa, he does chauffeur. Pleasingly, his observations freak her out early on, but trust is inevitable.

At another level, this film is a panacea to the retired. God, I was bored in those early days. I had every sticker from every National Trust property in the country. And then Old Mrs Jack bit the dust and… De Niro’s Whittaker makes the right move. And it is a sympathetic dream-life of briefcases getting respect, suits mattering, a level head earning admiration. He even gets the girl. Not Hathaway’s girl, obviously, but five minutes into the new job and office masseuse Rene Russo (sigh…she lovely) has given him an, um, excitement-inducing back massage and C-plot dates. She frees him to be the emotional backbone of Hathaway’s world.

There aren’t any great dramatic shifts in this film. Anders Holm as Hathaway’s previously understanding husband (Matt) hasn’t got through two years of being supportive without turning weak, selfish and bizarrely attractive to someone we only see from the back. The moment is about disappointment from De Niro and – later – hurt from the already-savvy Hathaway. So…Whittaker prods them – with no small deus ex luckiness –  to be loving grown-ups. Old Jack wanted to punch Matt in his nasty haircut for this, but, you know, Meyers was going for understanding and tender…

To be honest, it’s a bit flat, pat and familiar in places. There’s sweetness throughout, but you have to be in the mood. Pick a bright morning, have a fairycake and some fruit juice to hand. Bask in entertaining performances – Hathaway, De Niro and the ensemble make for good companions. And, if you’re an old guy in a rest home, enjoy the story of an old guy making friends with a young woman, where there isn’t the cold-eyed assumption of sexual weirdness, just some liking between people and the swapping of wisdom for living. And don’t diss liking. Liking is likeable.

Old Jack may just watch this a third time…