Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jottings : Slice of Life - 27

Jottings : Slice of Life - 27
“The Intern”
I am quite picky about movies I watch. Not that I rationalize, sift through options or always rely on favorable reviews to decide on what I wish to watch, but I primarily base my choice upon a gut feel cultivated over years of watching all kinds of films with a critical eye than most of them would care to. My watchlist on Netflix or Amazon or other online movie providers runs into hundreds. These are movies aligned purely on educated instinct. If you ask me to explain why a particular movie is on the list, I would not be able to point my finger on any specific reason. In fact, I wouldn't even be able to substantiate my choice, but like a trained cabbie who knows which roads to avoid at what times, how to quickly assess traffic conditions and a keen nose for cars and directions, one learns to react to good pieces of art through a very mysterious process in the brain. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell, in his brilliant book, “Blink” begins with an anecdote of this kind of gut feel that makes all the difference between a novice and an expert - the art and science of instinctual assessment based on years of experience. But the sad truth is : sometimes, this feeling can be entirely wrong, misguided or disappointing. And as an experienced practitioner, I must be prepared for such failures of judgement. Its part of the learning process, a learning experience that refine and distills ones taste for future evaluation. Watching “The Intern” featuring Robert De Niro and Anna Hathaway was such an experience. I was disappointed, to say the least.
If its a feel-good movie I wish to watch, with accomplished actors throwing in mediocre performances, storyline verging on the inane, then I am better off sitting through three hours of a commercial Indian film with enough songs and dances to relieve my steadily increasing boredom. But when a movie pretends to be tackling an important social trend (at least, to director Nancy Meyers) which seems contemporary, and tries to look at it through a Moralist prism rooted in traditional value systems, and ends up not knowing what to do with it half way through the film - then for people like me who treat movies as an art form - are in serious trouble. Because, we have invested our time hoping to see a great story unfold and told well, and all of a sudden , we are unceremoniously pushed over the precipice with not even a straw of hope or interest to hold on to. Here is the story in a nutshell. Jules (played by Anna Hathaway) is a successful technological entrepreneur with no time to live her life. The office she runs in the name of IT seems more like a zoo with caricatured specimens to identify who’s who, and all them seem jumpy, energetic and articulate without any specific reason. In the middle of this circus, Jules tries to balance a husband and child, both of whom seem oddly out of place ( especially the husband, the girl child is a saving grace). In comes, the seventy year old Intern in the form of Robert De Niro. He is mourning the loss of his first wife, and wants to get on track by leading a busy life. He obviously belongs to old school. Primly dressed, well mannered, mouthing time tested platitudes,feeling odd and out of place in the midst of nerdy software folks and hyperactive secretaries, dates his aging masseuse with all traditional male chivalry possible - he represents the directors’s version of lost humanity in a ambition filled modern world. Anyway, the story takes a turn when he gets assigned to Jules as her intern, and then on it is all about how she slowly begins to understand herself, her messy life through the eyes, wisdom and good deeds of her intern. Freud would have definitely been interested in this relationship - An emotionally incomplete and unhappy girl with unsatisfactory childhood leaning on a father-figure for succor and counsel. You know where I am getting with this!
I am a great admirer of De Niro’s work. His intensity on screen, his commitment to roles which demand extraordinary understanding of character and ability to translate them to screen is nothing short of legendary. But if there is something that simply is not in his genes, it is playing light roles. Though over the last five years, he has tried performing few such roles, it really has not come out well for him. As Ben Whitaker, he has literally breezed through this film with consummate ease. No questions about it!!. But the character didn't push him at all, and with such roles where nothing is demanded out of him , De Niro seems lost and unsure. Understandably so. Having worked with some of the finest and most intense directors of his generation like Martin scorcese and roman Polanski, he needs substantial meat in screenplay to produce his best, otherwise he languishes on screen. If the only purpose was to draw audiences to watch this movie, then i guess, the choice of having De Niro is justified. Otherwise, there is absolutely no scope in this film for him to dig deep into his vast reservoir of talent.
On the other hand, I have never been great admirer of Anna Hathaway. Don't get me wrong. I am not prejudiced at all. It is just that i have not seen a great performance from her so far. I loved her giggly, teenage role in “Princess Diaries” and other teen movies, but I personally believe, she has not grown beyond it. She is smart, in her own way quite good looking; but what she lacks is depth and emotional range on screen. The contrast in this movie between De Niro and her is extraordinary. What takes a single glance from him to convey needs a trunkful of facial gesticulations from her. I hope she has learnt a few tricks from the master.
Anyway, the good thing about this movie was I did not turn it off. It did make me sit through it. As I said in the beginning of this post, its a feel-good movie covered in chocolate and cream; drawing a picture of world that rarely exists in real time, except some parts of it. To her credit, Director Nancy Meyers has made some great films . “Something gotta give” with jack Nicholson, “Holiday” with Kate Winslet ( I have reviewed both in my previous posts) were great movies with right balance of frivolousness, story and performances; but "the Intern", somehow, didn't scale up to my expectations. For a movie made under budget of 35 Mn to gross over 190 Mn will be considered successful in many cinema circles. But to me, it was more the presence of De Niro that raked in crowds. Its a kind of movie, you would want to watch during a wet evening, after a few glasses of chardonnay and exquisite Italian food, walk or drive over to nearest theater or snug into sofas in your living room, dim the lights, press the pay button, and go to sleep midway with pleasant dreams.
For cinema lovers, who like that kind of Cinema , I highly recommend it..
God bless..
Yours in mortality,

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