Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Father Like I Wanna

In which Nancy Meyers makes a French-styled film in America

I just watched The Intern (2015), with my incredibly talented, smart, and beautiful wife, and these are my thoughts about it. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, the film deals with the intersection of work, family, and life satisfaction through two interlocking stories, one dealing with Robert De Niro’s retired widower and newly minted (at the perfect age of seventy) office intern, and the other with Anne Hathaway’s brilliant fashion-start up entrepreneur, whose brand new, rapidly expanding online business is named About the Fit. The interplay of our expectations and the characters’ desires plays out like a French domestic drama, something I highly doubt Meyers gets credit for from critics at large.

While there is a betrayal in the film, it’s not the one I’d imagined from seeing the marketing materials, and the way it unfolds is surprising and unexpected, and avoids the clich├ęd workplace climbing we’ve come to expect from films that heavily feature office workplaces.

Ultimately the film defies the template we’ve seen in so many movies about modern women, where steep tradeoffs have to be made in order for the leading ladies to have families and careers. Familial satisfaction and the outward ordinances of modern Western-style “success” clash incessantly and demand that we serve two masters simultaneously, but we all know that is impossible. What is needed is balance, and Hathaway’s character finds it, not by denying one side of her heart or the other, but by placing her affection (despite very compelling reasons to reject her husband) where it most belongs: on her family. That emphasis allows her to accept her situation and gives her the courage to stay who she is while finding the beginnings of balance. The film ends on a note of acceptance as Hathaway and De Niro do Tai Chi in the park. Ultimately, life is about the fit.

Oh yeah, and De Niro is hilarious, too.

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