Year 9, Day 27 - 1/27/17 - Movie #2,527
BEFORE: I could have gone several different ways, linking out of "Sausage Party" - I love films with big casts, even animated ones, because they present me with so many options. But sometimes this is maddening, too, if there are too many options - should I follow the Seth Rogen link to "Steve Jobs"? Or the James Franco link to "Tristan & Isolde"? And so on...
But I've set my sights on Feb. 1, and I already have a path there, so Anders Holm carries over from "Sausage Party", and this is the start of a three-film chain with Robert De Niro. Then we'll hit the romance films on Monday, OK?
THE PLOT: 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn't
all it's cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the
game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site.
AFTER: It's impossible to predict how much of any actor I'll see in a given year - after watching 5 films with De Niro in 2015, I went ALL of 2016 without an appearance from him. For any given actor, there are ebbs and flows to all of this. Anne Hathaway turned up three times in 2015, and I didn't see her at all last year, either.
But I wonder if De Niro was miscast in this film - he's just so NICE, in every aspect of the word. And is De Niro really at his best when he's being NICE? Agreed, he was 72 when this film was released, and he's playing a guy who's 70, but it should be a scrappy 70, not an overly polite, neatly dressed 70. There were times during this film when I was praying to see a little bit of the old Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver" or Max Cady from "Cape Fear", just to shake things up a bit. "Casino" or "Raging Bull" or "Godfather Part II" - heck, I would have settled for some of the meanness from his character in "Meet the Parents" here.
Because he plays a guy here who keeps taking things in stride - the death of his wife, the solitude of being retired and directionless, and then when he does find his way back into the workforce, it's a tough go for him to learn about the new ways of doing business in an online world. And even though he's very helpful to this dot-com's female founder, she doesn't want to accept or trust him at first, she even transfers him to another department for the crime of being "too observant", so he has to go on coffee runs for a bunch of spoiled millennials (I'm assuming...).
"Come on!" I thought, "Get angry, fight back, stand up to these spoiled kids! You don't have to smack them around, though that would probably be good for them, but let's see some push back!" Of course, this is not THAT movie, instead he wins over most everyone in the company with his polite manners, his ability to tackle complex problems and his can-do spirit. Ho-hum, how very boring! If I wanted to see people pitching in and getting things done, I can just go to work! I think if he had been more direct and forceful with the company's CEO, he could have straightened her out much quicker, and it wouldn't have taken the whole damn movie.
NITPICK POINT: Ben spots a flyer that's looking for "Senior Internships", and it turns out that this dot-com company is really, genuinely looking for senior citizens to be interns at their company - but that's not even a real thing, is it? This would have worked better in the film if the company was looking for COLLEGE seniors, and he thought they meant senior citizens, and then he's a real fish out of water, a 70-year-old guy applying for the same position as twenty-something millennial hipsters. Now, THAT'S a solid premise. So close, but they missed that opportunity here.
I have a feeling this film may have seemed extra boring to me because I watched it right after "Sausage Party", which represented a flurry of manic activity. The day-to-day operations of a clothing web-site are bound to seem dull by comparison, even though they manufactured a couple of shipping emergencies, and a mistakenly-sent e-mail that led to a heist-like operation to prevent the recipient from seeing something that would have been a personal disaster for the CEO. Yeah, we all wish there was an "Unsend" button, don't we?
There is more to the story, but I'm going to avoid spoilers here, but much of it deals with the logistics of a woman running a company, and her inability (before De Niro's character, Ben, comes along, of course) to balance her job, her relationship, motherhood, and a decent sleeping schedule. Ben finally convinces her that in this modern world, she shouldn't apologize for trying to have it all, or have to compromise any of those four things just to improve one of the others. Which really should have gone without saying, so should a movie have to apologize for having its characters stating the patently obvious?
So, what's the takeaway here, that a mommy can't be a CEO because she's always going to wonder if she's putting the company ahead of her husband and her daughter? And a man can't be a house-husband, even if he says he's OK with it, because he's always going to secretly feel inferior because he's not the breadwinner in the family, and this will cause him to act out in other ways? That's a horrible message.
Also starring Robert De Niro (last seen in "Grudge Match"), Anne Hathaway (last heard in "Rio 2"), Rene Russo (last seen in "Two for the Money"), Andrew Rannells, Adam Devine (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley, Christina Scherer, Linda Lavin (last seen in "Wanderlust"), C. J. Wilson, with cameos from Celia Weston (last seen in "The Invasion") and the voice of Mary Kay Place (last seen in "Starting Over") and archive footage from "Singin' in the Rain" featuring Gene Kelly (last seen in "Cover Girl") and Debbie Reynolds (last seen in "The Catered Affair").
RATING: 4 out of 10 flower pots