A movie review: The Intern

I’m going to try out something a little bit different with this blog post. Since starting to study cinematography and produce / direct Christian shortfilms, my perspective on every movie I watch or even every story I hear has changed immensely. I search for different elements, look for certain camera techniques, etc. It’s a subconscious thing that’s built-into my viewing experience now, because I’m no longer a passive viewer. I’m thinking the entire time, “Would I create this movie, tell this story, this way?

By the way, this is my very first film review, so if you have your own feedback, please leave a comment below. 🙂

That brings me to The Intern.

My wife and I really liked this film. I’ve actually been wanting to watch it for some time, but I was waiting for a time when Katya and I could watch it together. We finally had a chance to see it last night, and I’ve been chewing on it ever since.

By the way, my wife and I use VidAngel to watch films, which allows us to filter out cussing, sex, violence, etc. from any film that we watch. We highly recommend it, especially for anyone studying film, because it’s highly expanded my ability to watch films from directors that I wish to learn from.

SPOILER WARNING: I will talk about things that you won’t want to know if you haven’t watched the movie.

In no particular order, here are…

Five things that I loved about The Intern:

The acting.

The interaction between Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway was very believable. I really enjoyed watching the two of them figure out their working relationship. Robert De Niro was predictably stellar, perfectly and believably portraying his character. Anne Hathaway was equally convincing, along with the rest of the supporting cast.

The characters.

I think my favorite character in this film was Ben Whittaker, the character that De Niro played. I would love to be like him in 40 years. Jules Ostin (Hathaway) was also enjoyable to watch as she had believable struggles and problems that come along with her startup company.

One of the problems with the characters in this film, though, is that it’s not clear from the beginning who is the hero of the film. I know that most would assume that it’s Whittaker (De Niro), because the story is told from his perspective; however, it’s really Jules Ostin’s story. She is the one that has a problem in the beginning, she is the one that struggles through the middle, and she is the one that triumphs in the end.

This seems to be a common theme recently in screenwriting, where the “main character” isn’t actually the main character in the film. Other examples of this are Mad Max (2016), which we still haven’t watched, and In the Heart of the Sea (2015).

The problem.

Every story has four basic elements: a hero, a problem, opposition, and resolution. (Thanks, VSN and Jeremy Casper for helping me to more fully understand this!) So, for this film, we have:

The Hero: Jules Ostin
The Problem: Her board of directors want her to find a CEO, because a lot of the things in the company are disorganized.
The Opposition: Her partner in business is pushing her to “just find someone” instead of finding the right fit for her vision of the company.
The Resolution: SPOILER WARNING! She decides not to hire a CEO, instead continuing to lead the company herself.

I liked the problem, because it’s very believable. (I know I keep using that word… It’s a very important part of telling a story, though!) I can totally see someone starting a company and coming to a pivotal point where they have to start balancing growth and organization with original vision. We’re actually going through that as a church and having to make a lot of organizational changes, while still keeping the original vision of the church.

The message.

I saw several messages in this film, and different people will probably come away with a different “main message” of this film, depending on their individual experiences. I appreciated the fact that the film showed that an older generation still has a lot to offer those of us that are young and ambitioned. There are a lot of messages in this film, though.

The setup.

This was my favorite part of the movie, and also where I was eventually the most disappointed (more about that later). The first half of the movie was really good at making me familiar with the characters and care about what they were going through. I was looking forward to seeing how everything was resolved at the end.

That, unfortunately, brings me to the things that I really disliked about the movie. One of the things that studying film and scriptwriting teaches you is to know from any scene of the movie how much time is left. We had about 10 minutes left in the film, and I was thinking, “This is it?”

Four things that I disliked about The Intern:

REALLY BIG SPOILER WARNING!

The payoff.

This is the opposite of “the setup”. The entire movie, I was thinking in my head, “Dude – Whittaker would be a perfect CEO for this company!” In fact, there was a point early in the movie when Ostin and Whittaker are disagreeing, and then, later in the film, Ostin talks about what it would be like to disagree with her CEO.

You can totally tell that Whittaker is the type of guy that could lead her through tough organizational decisions and politely disagree with her without breaking her spirit or vision. However, by the end of the film, he’s still an intern. She doesn’t “take the plunge” and promote him from lowly intern to someone that can help her save the company and make things go from really good to great. At the end, when she says “best friend”, I was totally expecting her to say, “My first choice for CEO,” or something like that! That would have been the perfect moment to “surprise” us all with the fact that she wanted to hire him instead!

Another thing that’s not “paid off” is when the CEO from San Francisco sends Ostin flowers, and she is supposed to call him back. That could have been used in many different ways, but it’s passed over with her conversation with her husband. I was thinking, “What in the world is written on that card with the flowers?”, because her face dramatically changed when she read it.

The opposition.

Like I said, there are four main parts of any good story (hero, problem, opposition, and resolution). I really didn’t feel that the opposition in this story was strong enough. Her partner there in the company could have been an excellent villain… even somewhat terrifying! He could have, in the transition between the second and third act, made it very, very hard for our main characters. I don’t know why they didn’t use this more.

They sacrifice the film for the message.

I have mixed feelings about this. One of the messages of this film is forgiveness, and I totally believe in that; however, this is one of the main complaints that people have about Christian films. There should be a way to tell a good story, fully convey your message, and not sacrifice either one. If you kill either one, you end up with a less-than-satisfactory film.

The ending fell flat.

There was no “big final battle”; the climax was missing, when the opposition (her partner) brings everything to some big final conflict between the hero (Ostin), her mentor (Whittaker), and him and the board of directors. I think the rest of my critique also points to other ways that the ending could have been different.

Summary

I really liked this film, as I’ve liked other films that I would have changed many things about. I enjoyed the acting, the characters, and most of the plot (except for the end, obviously). The biggest thing for me, is that I would have liked to see more conflict and resolution.

If you agree, disagree, or think I should’ve explained something better in this review, please leave a comment below.

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