When writing, I often think of a scene from Steve Martin’s L.A. Story. In the scene, Marilu Henner looks into a mirror and turns around. She tells Steve Martin:
“[T]he best thing to do is, right before you go out, look in the mirror and turn around real fast, and the first thing that catches your eye, get rid of it.”
Sometimes writing is like that. If it stands out too much, and there’s no reason for it, it might be better to leave it out. Details, even small ones, can hurt. Maybe not enough to kill, but just enough to take the audience out of the story.
When I went to see The Intern this week, I expected nothing more than a bittersweet comedy about the modern corporate life, getting older, and finding a decent work/life balance. And the film delivered.
Where it falls apart, however, is in the details.
Robert De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70-year old retiree who is looking for something to fill his days. Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, a young entrepreneur, trying to juggle the responsibility of running a successful online company with managing her personal life. Ben applies for the senior internship program at Jules’ company, and becomes a friend, confidant, and mentor to many of the employees.
But the story is really about Jules, whose professional and personal lives are at a crossroads of sort. Writer/director Nancy Meyers tells a good story, but a few details could have used some extra attention.
1. The Guacamole
The Setup: In an early scene we see Jules dropping off her daughter, Paige (JoJo Kushner), at school. The other moms tell her that there’s some event on Friday and Jules is supposed to bring the guacamole. The moms are snarky and tell her she doesn’t have to make it, she can buy some. In a very sweet moment, Jules promises Paige they will make the guacamole together.
The Problem: The scene never pays off. No more mention of the guacamole at all. When Jules has to go to San Francisco on Thursday, I thought there’d be some conflict. But there was none. Continue reading →