The definition of intern in the Oxford Dictionary reads:
Accordingly, when we think of an intern, most often we think of undergraduate or graduate students trying to gain practical experience in their field of study. That is why this movie poster of The Intern with distinguished movie stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway caught my eyes when I first encountered it. I don’t think I’m the only one who found the idea of an elderly man working as an intern at a high fashion company quite refreshing.
In the movie, De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70 year old retired and widowed man of affable nature. Ben looks for things to do every day- he shaves daily, dresses up in a suit and tie, goes out to eat, reads, attends funerals, visits his son and grandchildren, does some Tai Chi at the park, and even takes up Mandarin. However, even with daily efforts to fill his days, he feels that there is a hole in his life.
Now, I’m no 70 year old, but I am a soon-to-be graduate, also pondering the meaning of life. As graduation approaches, I become more fearful of what’s to come in the future. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what I want to do, and even if I did, I don’t know if I would be good at it. Life feels a bit void- no, I’m not attending my friends’ funerals or anything like that- it’s a different void from that of an elderly man, but nonetheless void. As I study for my midterms, strive to graduate with a high GPA, and fill up my resume with research and job experiences, I begin to wonder- Why am I trying so hard? What am I doing this for?
With fall semester recruitment in season, college students are busy attending career fairs and information sessions with their resumes in hand. Whether they are looking for a summer internship or a full-time offer, the pressure to land a job is immense, especially in today’s competitive society. Many students have well-defined goals of what they want to become and how they want to live, but I am sure many others, like myself, are lost in a sea of uncertainty. We go about living our daily lives, doing what others do, trying to find meaning in what we do.
Likewise, Ben in The Intern is tired of life- until one day, he sees a flyer for a senior internship program at an online fashion company headed by Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway. He attempts to fill the hole in his life through this opportunity.
The rest of the movie transforms into a heartwarming story of an intergenerational friendship and lifetime advice. The movie was calming but not unexciting, and I think there was a sense of comfort in the more or less expected unfolding of the story.
What Director Nancy Meyers was trying to deliver through the movie exactly, though, I don’t know- That there is no age gap in friendship? That sometimes the old-fashioned way is better? The importance of communication between generations? The value of experience? A clichéd story of a successful female CEO?
Whatever it was, it worked- the movie received a 60% on the tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.5 on IMDb (Internet Movie Database), and also showed high ratings in Korea- 8.4 on Daum and 9.01 on Naver, as of October 7th, 2015.
Despite its rather abrupt and weak ending, I think the reason this movie earned so many good reviews (aside from amazing chemistry between De Niro and Hathaway) is that people of all ages and backgrounds were able to relate to it. Whether you are a college student like me, a successful female CEO in her thirties like Jules, or an elderly retired widow like Ben, we can all empathize with the emptiness we all feel sometimes. I think we all get bored of life sometimes, tired of the same daily routines, tired of the seemingly meaningless, shallow social interactions we face every day. The Intern served as a consolation for those of us bombarded with thoughts that question the meaning of our existence, embracing us who are consumed by feelings of worthlessness and helplessness.
This is what I got from the movie:
1. I struggle to get by every day, but I’m not alone in this.
2. I don't know what life holds in store for me, but what I do know is that the sun will rise tomorrow, and tomorrow is another day to go out and experience what the world has to offer (and we are never too old for experience!).
3. Career and financial success is good, but not when there is no one (family, friends, significant other) to share it with.
After all, what more is there to life than doing what we love and being with the people we love? As Ben quotes Freud, “Love and work, work and love, that’s all there is.”
Overall, this is a movie that forces us to think about life: look back on our lives, and look forward to our lives. Who knows? Maybe the real reason it’s called The Intern is because we are all interns in life.
P.S. Always have a handkerchief handy!