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The Intern

Year: 2015
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Nancy Myers
Producer: Nancy Myers
Writer: Nancy Myers
Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Nat Wolff

You might have heard some criticism levelled towards Nancy Meyer's (It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give) universe. Just like that of The Avengers is one of CGI, ridiculously-dressed superheroes, bright colours and one despotic villain after another, the Meyers world is decorated with tasteful plush furniture and artfully co-ordinated prints and fashions, Disneyland for House and Garden readers.

Critics have also noted the curious absence of any racial minorities as we delve into the first world problems of a coterie of stressed but privileged WASPs worrying about their businesses, marriages and lattes.

But if you can look past all that, here's what this apparently light, disposable comedy gives us that few movies do – a full formed female hero in Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Fitting into none of the stereotypes we've come to expect from movies she's as strong as she is unsure, as accomplished as she is overworked and as likeable as she has unlikeable traits.

Jules is the founder of an online apparel company that now employs 200 people, and before the movie's out we see her crying in the arms of a man she barely knows for want of someone to understand her lot, being as heroic and present a mother as she can be to her young daughter, leaning over vomiting into a garbage bin after drinking too much and much, much more. She even sends a nasty email to the wrong person in a rush, realising her mistake with horror.

Where women in movies are usually hallmarks or footnotes of the Madonna/whore dichotomy, Jules can be identified by any number of good, bad, strong and weak traits – just like we all (men and women) have. She's well written and portrayed with finesse and honesty by Anne Hathaway's considerable talent.

It's enough of a reason to celebrate The Intern even if the plot itself is as fluffy and inconsequential as the perfectly baked soufflé Nancy Meyers' characters can probably bake in their sleep.

We meet Jules through Ben (Robert De Niro). Retired, widowed and feeling aimless, Ben still has a sharp mind and a work ethic he wants to put to use. He answers an ad for senior interns at Jules' company and finds himself assigned to the harried boss. She tries to sympathise with him about how silly it all is and promptly tries to hide him in a corner and forget him.

From then on Ben is a mere foil for Jules' growth. He doesn't have an arc of any kind, he's just the arbiter of Jules' story – a mission statement that's spelled out in the movie's tagline, 'experience never gets old'.

Despite Ben's difficulties with the technology and culture of the modern office (mined for the same kind of comedy you've seen a hundred times), he wants to work hard and his wealth of professional experience soon makes him invaluable to Jules, soon graduating to confidant and then friend. At one point, when Jules' opens up to Ben about how shaky her marriage has become, they're sitting in fluffy robes on a hotel bed like a pair of teenagers.

There's a lot of padding – a scene where Ben leads a troupe of co-workers to try and intercept the errant email mentioned above is completely redundant – and few of the laughs are genuinely surprising.

And just like plenty of movies (Fast and the Furious, James Bond) can be described as porn for men, this is the exact same thing for members of the fairer sex who know the difference between a chunky knit and a throw pillow.

But even though there's not much here that's new, one of the best realised female characters in a long while certainly is.

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