Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hour 1 min.
Our content ratings (1-10); Violence 0; Language 2; Sex 5/Nudity 0.
Our star rating (1-5): 3
I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength.
Robert De Niro’s 70 year-old Ben Whittaker could also affirm the above words. The film begins with his narration, which we soon learn is a part of the home video he is making as part of his application to join a new senior internship program at a growing online clothing company. Of course he is among the four accepted, and not surprisingly, is assigned to assist the company’s founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Despite the title, the film is really about this insecure woman, how she is trying to cope with being a mom with a stay at home husband while running a company that she has founded but which has grown so rapidly that her board and investors are pressuring her to bring a seasoned CEO to lead the enterprise into an even brighter future.
The retired Ben, once a senior executive at a telephone book publishing company, misses his deceased wife; has tried filling his life with travel, card playing, Tai Chi, and fending off an aggressive widow, but still needs more to stave off boredom. Jules, however, though overworked, does not want his help, so for a while Ben sits long hours at his desk awaiting her summons. He soon finds himself going around offering advice to various workers, especially to two younger interns who are still dressing like they are living at a frat house. Always attired in a suit and tie, he helps one hook up with Jules’ stressed out secretary through his advice as to what a gentleman should wear—a shirt with a collar, the tails tucked in, and always to carry a handkerchief, the latter not for oneself, but to give over to a lady in distress. And yes, he advises another intern who admires his vintage brief case, a serious would-be executive carries around a brand name briefcase.
When Ben finally does insert himself into Jules’ routine, she appreciates his help at first, but then, feeling he is getting to know too much about her, transfers him to a goffer position. Seeing her mistake, she takes him back, with him now assuming an almost grandfatherly role for her cute little daughter. He even takes on the role of marriage counselor and, in regard to her search for a CEO to shoulder the workload, female empowerment coach.
Director/writer Nancy Meyers has given us a pleasurable film—the preview screening I attended was filled with laughter and sounds of audience approval—but one that has little real insight to offer. She even injects an extraneous home break-in episode in which DeNiro falls back into one of his gangster movie roles. This caper is played for cheap laughs, as are the two times that the in-house masseuse Fiona (Rene Russo) allows her hands to slip far lower than usual on Ben’s body so as to arouse him—as if in real life such a service person would act in such an inappropriate manner.
The solution to Jules’ dilemma of overly demanding workplace executive versus loving wife and mother is a bit pat, not really acknowledging that a woman’s dream of “having it all” is a complex issue that might not be so easily solvable. The main reason for seeing this trifle of a film is to watch two excellent actors, with a good supporting cast, go through their paces. The principals play well off each other, and the script at least avoids the old winter-springtime romantic plot, something that even Nancy Meyers seems to understand would be overwrought.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the October issue of VP.