REVIEW: The Intern

23 09 2015

If I could live within the universe of a single filmmaker, I would probably choose Nancy Meyers.  For the two hours or so when I watch one of her movies, the noise of the world goes silent and her soothing presence reassures me that good people and common decency will ultimately prevail.  Her latest cinematic creation, “The Intern,” continues her grand tradition of optimistic wisdom worth embracing with wide arms and an open heart.

In a cynical age, dismissing such a hopeful vision as naive or simplistic would be all too easy, but Meyers’ film never feels facile.  If “The Intern” seems like sunshine and rainbows, it’s merely a retraining of the eye to see the sunshine through the clouds and rainbows through the rainstorm.  Her characters know pain and must draw the strength from within to come out on top.

Meyers’ protagonist of choice is Ben Whittaker, played by Robert DeNiro as the polar opposite of Travis Bickle or Jake LaMotta.  A 70-year-old widower, Ben tires of retirement and looks for a way to become needed once more.  He finds that at About the Fit, an e-retail start-up with an internship program for senior citizens.  After an inspiring video lands him the position, the old company man quickly charms the entire company.  Ben even manages to command a trio of younger workers, including Adam DeVine’s chummy Jason, into a posse that Meyers often photographs like the boys in an “Entourage” episode.

The only person unenthused by Ben’s presence is the site’s embattled founder and CEO Jules Ostin, who is played by Anne Hathaway.  She had the right idea at the right time yet struggles to inspire confidence among investors.  They think a more seasoned executive can help sustain the company’s growth, and try as she might, they do not buy that Jules has the business acumen of a Mark Zuckerberg.

Still, she is an enormously capable businesswoman just trying to find a more sustainable balance between the demands of work and home life.  Ben sees right through her smoke screens, and it absolutely terrifies Jules.

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REVIEW: Nightcrawler

2 11 2014

NightcrawlerThese days, it seems like a lot to ask for a movie to seriously tackle one topic with the requisite depth to provide satisfaction.  On that criterion, “Nightcrawler” more than succeeds with its blistering critique of the media.  Writer/director Dan Gilroy takes our present “if it bleeds, it leads” local news culture and absolutely skewers it, exposing the obvious immorality caused by its hunger for profits and ratings.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom quickly moves from amateur to aesthete in his documentation of Los Angeles’ grisly, gory violence.  With each new recording, he learns how to best appeal to Nina Romina, Rene Russo’s particularly desperate station manager at KWLA.  She seeks footage akin to “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut” in order to jolt the station’s jittery suburbanite watchers, and Lou is eager to provide that material irrespective of any sense of ethics or decency.

This savage criticism alone would satisfy, yet shockingly, Gilroy is not satisfied with setting his aim on just that target.  Somehow, he manages to use “Nightcrawler” as a vessel for exploring a second major topic: extreme careerism.  The media is also a business where it takes more than whetting a certain appetite to advance oneself.  More than talent, it requires the marketing of oneself to a point where the line between self-promotion and shameless whoring disappears.

Though this Juvenalian satire happens to be moored to an excoriation of broadcast media, “Nightcrawler” could really be about anybody searching for lucrative employment in the business world today.  Gilroy writes Lou Bloom as the desperate post-recessional job seeker followed logically (and sociopathically) into absurdity.  Essentially, he gives us a Joel Osteen for the religion of capitalism, preaching the gospel according to LinkedIn.

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