Playing with Ageism
Not often does a film as entertainingly watchable as The Intern carry within it a positive regard for the multigenerational nature of human life in the 21st century. Generational chasms may still exist in big sectors of our culture, but films like The Intern may help reduce their size. Not that The Intern is a didactic “message” film; far from it. It is light on its feet and simply fun to watch as it unfolds the story of a successful but harried young executive learning to accept, and then trust, the help of an older worker.
The older worker in this case is actually a new intern, recently hired under a “senior intern” program at a fast-growing e-commerce company. When the intern, 70-year-old Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), comes to work the first day, he finds a workplace comprised of mostly younger workers running on high octane as they try to keep up with the company’s rapid growth. He has been assigned as a personal intern to the company’s founder and CEO, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), who has been persuaded, against her wishes, to try the new senior intern program. Initially she sets Ben aside, assuming that he is out of place and not up to the fast paced work environment. Ben, however, calmly finds ways to help others, and soon becomes a valued part of the workplace. But it isn’t until he becomes, by happenstance, Jules’ driver that she begins to notice the stability of his character. Although initially suspicious of his acutely observant nature, she eventually comes to rely on his constant availability and calm presence as she deals with the daily stress of her hands-on management style.