Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2015. Waverly Films. Screenplay by Nancy Meyers. Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt. Produced by Suzanne McNeill Farwell, Nancy Meyers. Music by Theodore Shapiro. Production Design by Kristi Zea. Costume Design by Jacqueline Demeterio. Film Editing by Robert Leighton.
Robert De Niro has reached seventy, a retired widower who hasn’t lost the desire to stay busy or useful. He answers an ad for an internet startup company that is looking to hire senior citizens as interns, likely to expand their online clothing-selling market to more than just the young people who shop on the internet. Showing up with his sharp faculties and friendly demeanor, De Niro is quickly made the personal assistant to the company’s founder (Anne Hathaway), an overworked and disorganized boss who has to juggle more meetings than she can handle and a home life with husband and child that she is barely present for. When Hathaway is informed that her investors would like her to take on a CEO to make sure that her quickly expanding business (she’s become extremely rich in just over a year) can keep up with demand, it causes a crisis that De Niro is perfectly ready to help her with. The signs of the Nancy Meyers touch are here, from the charming interaction between intelligently quirky individuals to the architectural porn that sees all this human activity happening against gorgeous and tasteful backgrounds. The performances couldn’t be more engaging, Hathaway gliding through it easily in the lead and De Niro never more amiable, but Meyers’ plotting is a veritable mess. Family drama, office banter, themes of friendship, loneliness, and women in careers, a heist thrown in out of nowhere and a jealous shrew in the form of an underused Linda Lavin are mashed up in a blender for something that is always pleasant but not necessarily easy to follow. Most disappointing is the fact that we’re supposed to care as much as De Niro does about what is at stake in Hathaway’s decision, whether or not to give over her brain child, and what effect this has on her conflicted feelings about being a working wife and mother, but it’s hard to sympathize with someone we rarely see being good at her job. One scene of Hathaway showing girls in the stock room how to fold wrapping paper doesn’t quite meet up with Meryl Streep’s cerulean-blue speech in The Devil Wears Prada, and Hathaway’s constantly reacting to everything with helpless tears and never knowing what to do gets monotonous very fast. It’s a tribute to her talent that the character is as watchable as it is, not to mention that she and her male co-star enjoy terrific chemistry. Rene Russo appears, looking as luscious as ever, as the office masseuse with whom De Niro strikes up a romance.