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Film review: Robert De Niro rediscovers his form as The Intern

While it would be crazy to suggest De Niro is back to the form he showed in Taxi Driver and other early films, his part in Nancy Meyers' breezy dramedy far outshines much of his recent risible output

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 2:48pm

Hollywood writer-director Nancy Meyers returns with The Intern, a breezy dramedy starring a rejuvenated Robert De Niro. While it would be crazy to suggest he is back to Taxi Driver form that dominated his early career, it far outshines much of his recent risible output.

Here, playing retiree Ben Whittaker, it feels like De Niro is finally playing his age. A proud widower who wants to keep active, he joins a funky online fashion firm as a senior intern.

The gentle humour early on is seeing the 70-year-old Ben mingling with the hipsters in the open-plan office. But he’s soon reporting to Anne Hathaway’s Jules Ostin, the company’s hyperactive founder. With Jules drowning in personal and professional problems, Ben gradually becomes indispensable an experienced, unflappable presence in the office and a wise shoulder to cry on.

If this sounds rather corny, De Niro plays it to a tee sensitive, grounded, warm. Also good is Rene Russo, in a small but significant role as a masseuse who comes into Ben’s life.

As Meyers explores themes of masculinity and emotional dependency, how you respond will largely depend on your feelings towards Hathaway, who spends much of the second half in floods of tears. Unlike Ben, Jules is not a particularly likeable creation; and Hathaway’s not an actress warm enough to make her so.

Fortunately, this is a film geared towards its older characters (something Meyers, in movies like Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, excels at). De Niro hasn’t had it so good in years.

The Intern opens on September 24