NO FEAR OF TRYING NEW THINGS: NEVER TOO LATE FOR LEARNING
Freud said, “Love and work. Work and love. “That’s all there is.”
The opening scenes of the movie in themselves are a revealing source of information about the key character. Inasmuch as the audience maintains attention to the story through the prism of the protagonist, we should become closely acquainted with Ben Whittaker. The man is in his early seventies and the intensity of Ben’s life could make the majority of the viewers feel jealous. For years, even decades, he was married to a wonderful woman and held a senior position in the marketing department of one of the New-York companies. Ben has enough money not to worry about his honored retirement, he is proud of his son, who has his own family. In the opening monologue, the key character does not call himself unhappy, yet he is not so enthusiastic to claim the opposite. Ben feels a kind of emptiness inside and a lack of core direction in his life. For the audience, it’s actually not so hard to unriddle the cause. Three and a half years ago Ben Whittaker lost his beloved spouse after forty-two years of marriage. His retirement from Dex One company after almost forty years of work caused another painful gap in his life at an age when the absolute majority of people would prefer not to work.
I realized the key to this whole deal was to keep moving. Get up, get out of the house, and go somewhere. Anywhere. Can’t explain it, but it makes me feel part of something. Golf, books, movies, pinochle Tried yoga, learned to cook, bought some plants, took classes in Mandarin. I’m not an unhappy person. Quite the contrary. I just know there’s a hole in my life, and I need to fill it.
The very first lesson, which Ben is generous to teach us is unexhaustive desire or even a habit to keep going. For the record, it is not a question of some ambitious achievements. Ben does his best to find delight in small everyday activities, a day-by-day helpful routine, and self-development step by step. No circumstances, whether it is the weather or New-York traffic, pure sleep, or a funeral a day before, can break his habit to start a new day in Starbucks at 7.15. The point of such a daily ritual lies beyond neither a sense of belonging to the world-known brand nor the coffee itself, as well as not in the desire to get acquainted with clerical workers. Ben feels free from thinking about the driving forces behind his doings: he enjoys the process of moving forward, being among the people, who take a break for the morning cup of coffee before work. He learns Mandarin not for the dream of moving to China, and buying plants, but definitely not for a gardening competition. Ben does his best to learn something new, he never abandons himself from the outer world, which he continues to explore even in his early seventies.
We all know the variations of the wisdom, that a human being actually grows in years when he or she stops moving forward in all aspects: physical, emotional, and intellectual. We may go further and claim that the greatest majority of people well younger than 70, ‘deteriorate’ and refuse to live life to the full, once they give up on learning something new. It’s natural that after the loss of his wife, retirement from previous life-long work, and rare visits to his son in San Diego, Ben in a certain way faces the loss of the purpose of his being. At the same time, he never quits trying new things, getting experience, making mistakes, and efforts to find new personal meanings of existence. Neither playing golf, nor Starbucks visits, nor another woman next to him would supersede his seventeenth years of life: but he can open a new page in this intriguing reality. Apart from the fact that Ben Whittaker finds delight in his hobbies in the process of doing, he never stops his search for new possibilities, taking numerous efforts: all to gain new experiences and a purpose.
Which brings me to today, when I was leaving the market and caught your flyer out of the corner of my eye.”We look forward to meeting you.” Well, I guess that’s meeting me.
As might appear, at first sight, a nondescriptive scene of taking a look at the paper invitation, in fact, says a lot about Ben Whittaker’s inexhaustible energy. It is highly likely that instead of going to a hypermarket once a week, Ben has been performing a little walking to this particular grocery store every day for years. It was never a question of if but when he would come across a life-changing paper appeal on this noticeboard, Ben evidently passes frequently. One may say with skepticism, that it is not always a good idea to cling to any straw, yet Ben Whittaker is selective in the papers and he chooses the one for him. Along with that, it is always better to make an effort rather than not. An attempt reveals possibilities and new experiences. In a narrow sense, the sequence with the notice board gives us a metaphor and a kind of life-improving message, one among the many in ‘The Intern’ movie. We should not be afraid of trying new things, seeing options and capabilities in unevident places and directions, or sometimes in well-known or intimate places. Staying closer to this notice board, we may suppose that at least some of the hobbies Ben has found in this place among the advertisements are not worthy for the majority of people. Summing up, this board serves as a metaphor for the capabilities around us.
While it is obvious that an internship for senior people implies a salary (probably respectable wages if we take a closer look at ABOUTTHEFIT.COM), the issue of money is never on the agenda of Ben Whittaker. One may assume that the key character is not so much concerned about the salary as he has already earned his honorary retirement and the new position is rather a hobby for Ben. In some measure it is true, but also the character himself gives us a more profound message. It is more precious for Ben to have this chance to meet new people, revisit the site of his previous work, and even learn about the video formats for his introduction message. He is not afraid of avi., mpg. or mov. abbreviations, a perspective downloading an application and recording himself, that he has never done before. In this short sequence, it is easy to grasp one of the reasons why Ben has no future with Patty. It is most important for all that Ben feels like that advertisement was written purposely for him and he is awaited to join the internship of this particular company. He feels like every step of his walking beyond home has led him to this particular moment and possibility.
Decades ago, made his first steps toward his future wife, toward a chance to join the Dex One company, and in recent years he did a lot of things, including doing yoga in Central Park. Just hours after coming across the notice board, Ben is taping himself on a video camera without a fear of looking old-fashioned among the young generation, who do commerce on the internet. He is not concerned about professional advancement or promotion, his social status, and money, but he is happy to still be useful to this world and people. On some level, Ben Whittaker has no inner barrier to being a white crow or getting a rejection. The absence of anxiety about failure is another important message of this movie, a virtue that Ben Whittaker is open to sharing with us. Getting far ahead, a new job, and people around would make new sense for Ben, capable of filling that gap inside. The internship and a new position would demand a lot of adventurousness from Ben and a desire to learn something new. He loses no time mastering the work in front of the notebook and in his seventies, Ben creates his first Facebook page.
Another detail worth noting may be found by taking a closer look at ABOUT THE FIT company itself. It is not only a modern e-commerce company, which differs significantly from the way of marketing Ben used during his forty years at Dex One. The company stakes out the market of fashionable women’s cloth: one would consider it not the best place of work for a man in his early seventies, who wears a suit. The point is that Ben is not afraid of being wrong or inexperienced. Our deeds define the people we are. Although beyond his initial duties, Ben accepts Jules Ostin’s request to join her on the trip to another city. He feels important to support his boss and to be close to her in this challenging moment in life. Ben is a seventy-year-old widower, who takes a chance of making relations with a woman he meets: Fiona. We should pay attention to the format of their first date: visiting the funeral and Fiona fully supports Ben at this moment and finds nothing strange if it is important for him. Ben Whittaker teaches us that we make our own lives, and the choices we make transform us into the people we are. It is vitally important to stay close to other people, to help them, and not be afraid of asking for help.
THE POWER OF BEING AUTHENTIC
Knowing that Ben is always ready to try something new, to learn, and to change for the better, he lives his truth and keeps his own individuality. After getting into the company of young people, Ben does not try to pretend to be someone else or look younger than he is. He just adapts himself and his habits and virtues to the new circumstances. For almost forty years Ben was selling phone books, an anachronism unfamiliar to his present colleagues. He is not afraid of being a white crow among young men and women under thirty. He is not so concerned about what other people may think about him, not because of some boosted self-confidence or arrogance. Ben just keeps being authentic. The man, who wakes up early, who takes delight in work, frank with other people, is not afraid to learn and is always ready to support others. Once finding himself an aide of Jules Ostin, the founder of the company, Ben wastes no time just sitting and doing nothing: he takes the initiative in a way that is his virtue.
Also, don’t feel like you have to dress up. I mean, we’re super cas here. Well, I’m comfortable in a suit, if it’s okay. No, it’s fine. Old-school. Exactly. At least I’ll stand out. I don’t think you need a suit to do that. True.
‘The Intern’ movie lays specific comedic stress on the gap between the generations, particularly when it comes to the way someone looks. Dressed to the nines in a shirt and a suit, Ben Whittaker is comically confronted with the modern casual informal office culture in the offices in one way or another related to the technologies. It is important to understand that Ben wears a suit not to make people react or stand out from the crowd, and definitely not to stay close to a dress code. He looks in such a way because he likes to wear a suit, a shirt, and a tie. For decades Ben has been taking advantage of the vintage briefcase and it looks like a continuation of himself. Ben gets shaved every day even on weekends, though it is a ritual beyond a necessity for work. He is not afraid of looking old-fashioned, because Ben regards his own appearance as a hallmark of respect toward other people. As the story goes on, his example as a mentor makes a positive impact on young men in the office, particularly when it comes to the outer look.
How, in one generation, have men gone from guys like Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford to… Take Ben, here. A dying breed. You know? Look and learn, boys, because if you ask me, this is what cool is.
Among other scenes, it’s particularly interesting to pay attention to the sequence with an intake meeting for the position of the intern, when Ben is being interviewed by a young man, who looks like his grandson. A man with forty years in sales and marketing turned out to be clearly open to new realities. Ben never gets superior toward someone he barely knows, and despite a kind of biased attitude toward him, he does not take the gage of other people based on their age, gender, or outer look. Ben shows his admiration toward Beckey, who looks older than she is because of her devoted attitude to work and a habit of taking responsibility, sometimes over and above. On a question about who inspires him, Ben with a hand on his heart says that it is Jules Ostin, a woman, who is forty years younger than he is, and who created her own company from scratch less than a year ago. One of Ben’s most prominent virtues is his lack of judgment toward other people. When it comes to an unpleasant situation with Jules’ driver, Ben does not choose the way of a quarrel and accusation: instead he gives the man a chance to get by with dignity, regardless of the cause of his alcoholic affinity. Ben does not show disdain or disrespect toward Jules’ husband for his extra-marital affairs. On the contrary, Ben is more and more emotional in the situation he can’t help.
I guess that’s now she became an Internet sensation. Must make you guys proud, huh?
One of your own out there every day, crashing the glass ceiling of the tech world.
Ben Whittaker never takes credit for the achievements of other people as well as he never intends to shift the responsibility for his own failures. When Jules puts a high estimate on Ben’s ideas regarding marketing and sales, he shifts the focus to Beckey. In a wider sense, he used his experience and time to highlight Beckey’s devotion to work. Ben is always detail-oriented and a big believer in orderliness, thus he sees no problem in making the notorious office table clear. He makes the most of his attentiveness to help other people: a forgotten virtue in our time of spending time in front of the phone screen instead of looking into people’s eyes. Jules Ostin distances herself from Ben, making him wait for the e-mail, all while he is ready to come to her cabinet at any moment to speak personally. It may look old-fashioned, but this detail underscores the value of personal communication in the world of gadgets and the internet.
Ben always keeps his head cool when people around him may give in to despair or panic. He is attentive and listens carefully to what others say rather than talking himself. For decades Ben was devoted to his wife and son, and he now gets an opportunity to project his care and charm onto his young colleagues. Without a doubt, the greatest impact Ben brings throughout the story deals with Jules Ostin: from a portion of hot bouillon to a misunderstanding with the mother, a conflict with the investors at work, and with a husband at home. The first emotional climax of such an attitude comes with the scene in a hotel room when Ben suggests Jules be buried next to him and his wife one day. Ben helps Beckey to de-escalate tension a little bit and to get Jules’ appraisal. He gives a helping hand to Jason, who uses Ben’s advice to get relations with Beckey back on track. Ben takes a kind of mentorship toward the young man Davis, giving him time to find a new place for living while staying at Ben’s house for a while. Ben Whittaker serves as a guiding star for this generation.
Ben’s greatest investment in the company is his care for other people. He never points out their pain points and drawbacks, but rather he shares his own experience while highlighting their virtues. Ben Whittaker does his best, to be frank with the others and as the story goes he feels physical discomfort when trying to keep a secret from Jules. Toward the end and during another emotional peak, he tells Jules that she should keep control over the company. In fact, it takes courage to keep a moral sense. Finally, we understand that Ben’s age was in fact his advantage because of his life experience and wisdom, a revelation for his younger protegees to make their lives better.
You should feel nothing but great about what you’ve done. And I’d hate to see you Iet anyone
take that away from you. I guess you came over here because you wanted to hear some of this.
JULES OSTIN: SEEKING FOR A BALANCE
Jules Ostin’s character is turned out to be something more than just an objectivization of Ben’s care or a climax of his mentorship toward the young generation. She is the key female character who covers a journey full of changes, challenges, and reconsideration, between the opening and the end credits. While Robert De Niro’s character stays close to his own truth throughout the whole story, Anne Hathaway’s Jules is being transformed.
Grew in less than a year from an employee base of 25 to 220. it accomplished, as she puts it, its five-year goal in nine months.
In many ways, Jules Ostin is a generalized character, a modern interpretation of a free-will independent woman from the novels of Jane Austin, who has ventured further than her XIX-century predecessors. At the beginning of the movie, Jules Ostin comes across the story as a personification of success in a world of inexhaustible possibilities. It took her less than a year to found and raise a successful internet company with 200+ employees. The woman possesses a business-class car with a personal driver, a large house in New York and, it may seem, that she could deal with any obstacle or challenge. One may say, that she has effectively distanced herself from the moral teaching, and the irregular sleep or poor nutrition have no chance to interfere with Jules’s journey to success.
-It seems like they’re 38% more likely to experience major weight gain compared to women who slept seven hours a night.
-Are you kidding me? You know I haven’t slept in two years.
The initial rose-colored image is to be easily changed when Jules has to associate with other people and Ben Whittacker serves as a litmus paper of her inner severities. It is easy to see that the staff of the company is being expanded at such a rate, that Jules naturally does not know or remember the names of the majority of people even among the ‘senior employees’. By following the modern tendencies of easiness, Jules uses a bike to cover a distance across the office space, but she has no courage to free the notorious table from the papers or order, someone, to do this. As the story goes, we understand that her self-distancing from her mother hurts Jules herself and she just does not want to hear the truth. She lacks time for balanced nutrition: a fact that one day ruins her health and life. A plate of hot soup from Ben served as a lifesaver. The trouble with sleep is also something more than just a mother’s teaching, which may be ignored without consequences. We see Jules constantly having a brief sleep while being driven in the car, and she is always confronted with an idea that she could do things better. In fact, her strained relations with her mother initially made Jules skeptical toward the idea of the internship for senior people and particularly toward Ben as her assistant.
Jules Ostin spends so much time being absorbed in concerns and self-doubts while looking like a rock-solid businesswoman, a wife, and a mother, which is all of course untrue. It is evident that her husband is the one responsible for having an affair, yet Jule’s definite devotion to work ruins her marriage and she lacks time even for her beloved daughter. We actually see almost the absence of relations between Jules and her child as well as with her own mother.
Jules is obviously too concerned about what other people may think about her. A living example goes with the mummies at school, though Ben gets them to understand that their attitude is a pattern of self-pity in a way they have to be proud of Jules’ achievements. It is clear as a bell that Jules Ostin is being constantly taped by the others, but the reason is her distinction, exceptionality, her evident efforts, and results. The issue is her attitude. We should also pay attention to the character named Beckey. A young girl who tries to follow the lead of Jules not only in commitment to work, but also in poor sleeping, nutrition, and relations with other people beyond work matters. The story leaves her future beyond the curtain, yet it is obvious that Jule’s transformation would have a good impact on Beckey. Ben teaches Jules how to live a little, to thrust aside concerns, and to make the most of what she already has instead of her never-ending pursuit toward more website clicks and orders (I want more). Ben shows that Jules should not abandon her dream, but rather follow it close to her friends and colleagues. The paradox is that she runs a company with 200 employees, and has the ability to solve any basic issues with strangers around the country, yet her biggest fear is to be buried in the section for lonely people. May would call such fear nonsense but it was Jule’s starting point in this story, prior to Ben’s appearance.
-Forgive me, but this does keep me up in the middle of the night.
-That I don’t wanna be buried alone.
During one of the final dialogues of the movie, taking place in Ben’s kitchen, we find out that Jules does not have friends with whom she could discuss her concerns and fears. Toward the end of ‘The Intern’ story, Jules comes with a confession that Ben has become her friend far beyond the role of a senior intern. Such revelation is very symbolic taking into account how skeptical she was in the beginning and her former appeal to find him another duty: a sign of how vulnerable and sheltered Jules was. Even the end scene in the park with a bit of meditation is symbolic. Ben once again shows her that you can achieve the greatest personal results by being both true and kind to yourself, a full-fledged mature person close to your family and friends. Keeping in mind all the charisma of Robert De Niro’s performance, it is Jules Ostin who turned out to be the key character. Many and not only women, would draw parallels with their own lives and the challenges Jules faces. It may look weird to wish all good to the fictional character, but this is what Ben Whittacker would do.
Someone may come in with more experience than you, but they’re never gonna know what you know. I never had anything like this in my life. Not many people do. This big, beautiful, exciting thing that you created.
I really love this article. Full of insights and great interpretation. I love the way you portrayed the character with abundant details, especially the part you talk about the character’s inner voice and their relationships with others.
I’m an English teacher and am collecting ideas to teach about this movie. I got a lot of inspirations. Thank you so much!