“The Intern” begins when a successful startup company dedicated to fashion and online retail sales decides to start a program for senior citizen interns. Ben Whittaker (played by Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old retiree and recent widower who signs up for the program to make use of his free time and is hired almost immediately. In the midst of a postmodern job filled with technology, a minimalist environment, geeky co-workers, and lots of stress, Ben is assigned to work with the young and eccentric Jules Ostin (played by Anne Hathaway), CEO and founder of the company (kind of like a female Mark Zuckerberg).
This is where the story begins. Jules is great: attractive, enterprising, intelligent, creative, efficient, and many other things… but she has a weakness: she’s young and inexperienced in dealing with many of the aspects of her life and career. On the other hand, Ben has many limitations: he doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he doesn’t know the basics of the Internet, he’s an old-fashioned dresser, and he doesn’t understand Jules frenetic lifestyle. But he does posses something special: he’s lived 70 years, he’s pleasant, and he has great life experience mixed with common sense that, as the movie slowly progresses, becomes a great asset to Jules and the company.
“The Intern” is a wonderful comedy that tells of the unlikely friendship between Jules and Ben. I watched it yesterday and loved it. I would like to point out some elements of the movie that can be used as a great opportunity to evangelize and can be of great use for your apostolate. Don’t worry, I promise no spoilers.
1. The value of age and experience
We live in a technology-driven world where we young people have started to believe we’re almighty. We disregard the past and those who were born or lived in it. Huge mistake. Ben’s character often shows how his age, humanity, and experience fill the many gaps his coworkers and company have. He even gives these young men tips on how to win over a young lady or two.
2. Life’s Priorities
Work, career, and money seem to have become the top priorities in modern day life, especially among young people. But in reality, it is a bit more complex. Let’s think for a second: What do you fear more-loneliness or professional failure?
Most of us would probably respond with “loneliness,” however we often do whatever it takes to avoid failure, at all costs. How much do we truly strive to learn to love? Jules is a typical successful person who believes love falls from the sky and that everyone (her husband and daughter included) should make sacrifices so her projects can succeed. In the film you’ll see how this cookie crumbles quickly.
3. The birth of a friendship: let yourself be loved, even if it’s a little
Jules doesn’t have friends. To her, everyone is an employee or a gear in her well-tuned machine. Her fresh style and her humane look at life that led her to create her digital brand have slowly waned to the point of making her a woman always in a rush, barely courteous with her co-workers, family and even with herself. Ben, on the other hand, is reverent, patient, humble and courteous.
These attitudes will help her perceive something special in Ben. The story doesn’t begin with their flourishing friendship… Jules is really scared to let Ben into her life because his acute observations can lead her to realize that her digital empire is built on the sand of questionable personal and family decisions. Many things happen throughout the movie (which I will not spoil), but I will say that neither one of them wants to live life without the other.
Despite her fears, Jules realizes that Ben is a treasure in her life and begins to take small steps to get to know him and seeks out his opinion. Furthermore, Ben admires Jules. He believes she’s an exceptional leader and wants to help her with everything that’s within his reach so she can become a better person. As their friendship develops, their quality of life improves. It’s beautiful: Jules picks up on Ben’s positive traits, and Ben picks up hers.
4. To consolidate a friendship: open your heart
As is obvious, Jules’ family life goes into crisis mode and Ben is there to listen and comfort her. In a beautiful scene – where Hathaway proves herself to be an exceptional actress – she opens up her heart like never before. She talks about her fears, her expectations, and her insecurities that she has accumulated throughout the years.
She reveals her true self, confessing she’s afraid of loneliness more than she’s afraid of failing professionally. Ben, a recent widower with beautiful memories of a marriage lasting 50 years offers Jules an experienced and wise heart, a great capability to listen, and the gift of compassion. After this moment, the friendship between the two is sealed indefinitely.
5. Can a marriage start over?
Well, I promised no spoilers, so for the answer to this question you will just have to see the movie! 😉
6. Friendship is to lead another to what is good (to Christ)
Ben enters Jules’ world, but he ends up bringing her into his. It’s very telling that in the final scene we see Jules practicing Tai-Chi, one of the activities Ben used to practice before heading to work. Friendship implies that we must love the other person just as they are, but that doesn’t mean we should remain quiet when something can hurt our friends.
We must be fully aware that an authentic friendship (especially a Christian one) demands that we help to bring out the best in our friends and avoid anything that alienates them from their true identity. This is one of Ben’s greatest life lessons for us: his attention is always set on Jules’ well being. Ben doesn’t go into Jules’ world to judge or condemn her. He’s not interested in labeling her.
On the contrary, he seeks to help her to mature without necessarily separating her from some things that he, as a 70-year-old man, doesn’t understand or might even consider frivolous, vain, or superficial. He continually strives to understand from the inside, from where she is standing, and, from there, he tries to help his friend grow and find happiness.