Following on from a stream of phenomenal actors to have been tempted in to a Meyers project, such as Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep – comes Robert De Niro, who takes on the role of Ben Whittaker, a widower who has found retirement become increasingly more tedious. Desperate to fill his time with something new and engaging, he applies to be an intern at an online fashion site. As part of a scheme to allow the older members of community a chance to find some work and bring their experience to companies – he is hired, and assigned to be the personal assistant of the laborious founder of the site, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). With a reputation to be rather brash with her employers, Jules is under pressure to hire a CEO to help out with affairs and lighten her workload – and she may just need the calming, authoritative presence of Ben to keep her in check.
De Niro’s amicable performance completely encapsulates the tone and spirit of this movie. Granted, it may not be as nuanced nor as intense as we’ve seen the formidable actor portray before, but there remains a real skill to being so likeable on screen, and playing a role with such a comforting aura, as Ben is someone that not only do our characters enjoy being in the company of, but the audience do too. You just want to give him a great big hug.
It’s not all flowers and cuddles mind you, there is some edge to this piece, and an added sense of profundity that derives from the feminist angle, as we’re dealing with a diligent, self-made woman who is attempting to balance the running of a business she started, with being a mother of a young daughter. We explore the pressures and expectations that comes with that. It’s also nice to see experienced actors given prominent roles too, with the added romantic narrative concerning De Niro’s Ben and the office masseuse, played by Rene Russo. In the film the idea is that these people can bring more to a company given their life experiences – and the same can be said of them as actors too.
On a more negative note, the picture is needlessly long, with no cause whatsoever to surpass the two hour mark. What transpires is a final act that finds a way to fill time with a feeling of contrivance, with one two many plot points implemented which feel a little overbearing, and melodramatic – where perhaps a more simplistic approach would have been favoured, But it’s a mere blemish on a film that will have you smiling from start to finish. There will be many who struggle to get on board with this feature as it is quite elementary in parts, but every so often indulging in a picture that is unashamedly, and gratifyingly heartfelt, can be of great appeal too.