The Intern: An unexpected exploration of gender roles

On a chilly October night during Fall Break, my mom and I rushed into Showcase Cinema de Lux, bundled in coats and scarves. We were both giddy with excitement, as we had been waiting to see The Intern practically since we saw the first trailer. I’m happy to say that the film did not disappoint.

The Intern, written and directed by Nancy Meyers and starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, tells the story of retired Ben Whittaker (DeNiro) and his journey working for a high-strung and successful founder of an online clothing company, Jules Ostin (Hathaway). Although Hathaway’s character begins the movie not wanting to associate with her “new-old” intern, we watch as their relationship progresses and they grow from coworkers to friends.

Although The Intern isn’t generating any Oscar buzz, it’s certainly a feel-good movie that appeals to audiences of a variety of ages, as well as to both men and women. We immediately sympathize and grow to love Ben, who is “the benign face of patriarchy, a gentler, kinder father figure who comes equipped with a laundered handkerchief and the wisdom of the elders,” as said by the New York Times. Although Jules is harder to relate to at first, we also grow to understand and appreciate the intricacies of her character as Meyers provides more exposition. Jules faces difficulties both at work and at home that force us to empathize with her. We watch her attempt to handle her busy and overwhelming lifestyle, all while striving to stay cool, calm, and collected.

Although the Times states that Ben is “the benign face of patriarchy”, the review also discusses the gender roles that Jules and Ben represent in the film. Jules is, at first glance, the 21st century’s typical workingwoman: powerful, chic, and someone who has it all. What the Times so cleverly points out, however, is that while Jules may think she has it all, she truly doesn’t; she has to hold on with white knuckles to keep her life perfect. Times columnist Manohla Dargis writes, “Jules’s problem is as familiar as the last headline that recycled the plagues of career women who want it all, apparently can’t have it all and are unsure if they want any of it in the first place.” Thus, the character of Jules Ostin and the life she leads made me reconsider the type of woman that Meyers portrays in this film. Is Jules a strong, 21st century workingwoman? Or is she a more stereotypical female that needs a husband and children to be comfortable and consider herself successful?

On the other hand, Ben’s character is an interesting type of man, as we see him at a point past his “glory days”: he worked as a VP for a phonebook manufacturing company for over 20 years and lived happily with his wife and son. However, we meet Ben as a 70-year-old retiree and widower who relies on his son and grandchildren to keep him busy and content. He works for a woman much younger than him, driving her around and doing the busy work for which she doesn’t have time, such as cleaning up a cluttered table that acts as a motif throughout the film.

This clash of gender roles mentioned by the Times had me rethink the ways in which Meyers presents gender in The Intern, as I originally believed that Meyers was attempting to “shake up” gender spheres; I now am not so sure. The Intern introduces many different ideas about man and womanhood and the different stages of life that we all must go through; in conjunction, these two aspectsmake for a very interesting, layered, and dynamic film.

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