Saturday, October 17, 2015

The "Intern" sells Success at what cost?

This past week I went to see the Intern with two of our sons.  It was a good movie, even though the underlying message which came through wasn't so great.  There were many worthwhile leadership/mentoring lessons in the movie, along with highlighting the need for intergenerational relationships, and the plot was well written.

De Niro's character is a retired widower who experienced a long career, goes to a lot of funerals, who after he has traveled the world in his retirement, he is so bored and unfulfilled he longs to be back (at age 70) in the office once more.  Hathaway's character is a Thirty-something career-driven mom, with a stay at home dad.  She neglects sleeping and eating, and her family.  

In the end, the Intern glosses over the sacrifices people make to achieve success, even though the damage to Hathaway's life isn't marginalized in the plot.  De Niro who "fathers" Hathaway and encourages her to eat well and sleep more, still tells her in the end she should pursue her path and not feel guilty about it or take the blame for the fallout in her marriage.  And there's the catch.

Had the screenplay been written with the roles reversed, or even if it portrayed an all male cast, people wouldn't have blinked an eye.  But, they placed Hathaway's role as a wife & mom who seeks to run a successful startup online company.  This was all done to disguise the movie's moral code.  In other words, the audience risks feeling sexist if we deny Hathaway her shot at glory.  But the point isn't about gender.

In reality, the trade off De Niro admires which Hathaway embraces -- where you sacrifice personal and more so family health for work, comes up short.  I believe in hard work, and having a strong work ethic.  On the surface, this movie seems to promote this too, claiming the seductive lure of hard work always leads to success.  

Really though, afterwards, I questioned the lack of valuing "balance" in the plot, that balance between work and life which helps us enjoy the fruit of our labors... and the need for our culture to redefine success.

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