Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Internship [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J.P. McCarthy) review (S. O'Malley) review (A.A. Dowd) review

The Internship [2013] (directed by Shawn Levy, screenplay by Jered Stern and Vince Vaugn, story by Vince Vaugn) is a nice, fast talking, feel good, screwball comedy about the value of perseverance and good humor in the face of hard economic times.  My guess is that Abbott and Costello [IMDb] would approve ;-).  In fairness, the film hasn't gotten best of critical receptions, getting a mere 33% on's tomatometer from the critics (though as often is the case, a much more favorable audience score).

I found myself, to my surprise, liking the film, and indeed surprised how much I liked it.  After all, various critics were writing that the film was "just a gigantic product placement ad for Google," that it was needlessly crude (Note to parents, I get why the film is rated PG-13 as if it were rated R it'd be a relatively "mild one."  Still, having seen the film a second time, I would agree that there are scenes in the film that are needlessly crude) and that a fair amount of the scenes in the film were "stupid."   Hello, this is a fast-talking screwball comedy, of course there are scenes that are going to be over the top "stupid."  If there weren't, I'd want my money back.

Indeed, I found the heartfelt "I got nothin', but I'm gonna try anyway" attitude of the film's lead characters Billy McMahon (played by Vince Vaugn) and Nick Campbell (played by Owen Wilson) two long-time salesmen, partners, approaching 50 who suddenly find themselves unemployed positively inspiring.

We meet the two just before reality hits them like a 2x4 right between the eyes.  They're sales reps for a -- okay they should have seen this coming -- always probably kinda shifty "luxury watch distributor."  They're trying to schmooze one of their biggest clients at at an expensive restaurant, only to be told by the client himself, that their own company, the watch distributor, had gone out of business.  Why?  Well, as their former boss (owner) of the now defunct "luxury watch distribution business" (played by John Goodman) who ran his business out of a trailer in an industrial park located somewhere, okay let's say "Encino, CA" in Southern California broke the news to them: "Who buys a watch anymore?"  "Lots of people."  "Who?  Everybody uses their smartphone for that now."  "Okay, maybe some young hotshots use cellphones for that now, but most people still use watches."  "Edna, my 70 year old secretary, what time is it?"  Edna, pulling an iPhone out of her purse, responding, "It's 10:35."  Point made...

So now our two approaching 50 something heroes are out of work.  After spending the night "googling" for jobs on the internet, even at one point running a search for "Jobs for people with no skills" ... Billy hits upon the crazy, "out of the box" idea: "Why not try to get a job working for Google itself?" ;-).

And once Billy gets that brainstorm, sure enough, he's up and running again.  With a few keystrokes, he finds out that there's a internship program (unpaid to be sure) ... but an interview proved not too hard to arrange.  The only thing is that the interview would be done "online."  He doesn't have a webcam.  No problem, he arranges it so that he and his former partner Nick do the interview AT A LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY chasing away 4th graders from the computer as they do it ... with some bemused but intrigued 20-something interviewers from Google.   If nothing else, Billy and Nick prove to be folks who "think outside the box..." ;-).  Indeed, their age and their _obvious lack of computer programming skills_ actually prove to be pluses to the recruiters at Google because they represent "a new kind of diversity" ;-).  And let's face it, since the gig's _unpaid_ Google risks nothing by inviting them into their internship program.

Much, of course, ensues ... and honestly, I found myself repeatedly in awe, at the gentleness and positiveness of the film's message.  Initially Billy and Nick seem to be "pastel colored fish completely out of water" on bright primary colored campus filled with other interns and even Google supervisors everyone of whom could have been one their kids.  What could these two late 40-something, pushing-on-50 salesmen who've been hustling all their entire lives for their keep offer these young supremely competent techies?  Well it's actually obvious: life experience, optimism and yes, thinking on one's feet and never ever giving-up.  Finally, Billy and Nick were "real world people," reminding everyone by their mere presence that "an app is only good if people want to / can... use it."  So they proved surprisingly good "team members" to techies who knew how to code but could use help elsewhere.

Is the film rather unrealistic?  Is it, indeed, kinda corny?  YES.  But it is also, IMHO, honestly very very funny.  And in as much as Google and the other top tech companies actually do try to think "outside the box" in this way (like taking  taking a chance two recently unemployed middle-aged salesmen with no computer programing experience and include them in their "internship program") I can see why they'd be at the top of the game.  Interns cost Google, et al, little and if they prove that they can produce something intangible previously missed by the organization, from Google/et al's  perspective, why not?  And it offers those trying to enter the job market as well as those sidelined by unemployment a chance to prove themselves (or prove themselves again). 

And yes, there are plenty of dangers in the shifting of the economy in the direction of leaning more and more on the labor of essentially unpaid interns.  The Nick character in this film is actually rather correct when he initially calls internship program presented in the film essentially a "techie Hunger Games [2012]."

Still with a youth unemployment rate stuck in the twenty percentiles and large amount of long-term unemployed among those in their 40s and 50s, from the perspective of the unemployed/underemployed taking chances, thinking outside the box and remaining optimistic in face of much evidence to the contrary is honestly pretty solid advice.

And in hard times, a good laugh doesn't hurt either.  Again Abbott and Costello [IMDb] would understand ;-).

Finally, I've focused above on the story and the performances of Vince Vaugn and Owen Wilson.  However, a performances of the younger "googlers" (those already working for google) and "nooglers" (the interns ;-) were also very, very funny including the performances of: 

Aasif Mandvi playing Chetti (the one responsible for the internship program and chooses to run it with all the intensity and often laugh-out-loud "straight man" humorlessness of the "drill sergeant" of the Officer and a Gentleman [1982]) vein;

Rose Byrne playing Dana (the attractive and super-competent 30-something google manager who becomes the love interest for Nick (Owen Wilson's character). She's great at her job but at the cost of a lot of life experience.  At first, she doesn't give Nick the time of day but he catches her attention when he promises her "10 years of bad date experience in just one evening" ;-) -- and then effortlessly (and always with a smile) delivers ;-).  Honestly, the dinner is one of the funniest scenes in the film: Nick, flirts with with the waitress (asking and getting her phone number ;-), admonishes Dana on "her weight" (weight? she could be a supermodel ;-) taking the opportunity to steal both her desert and her wine (telling her then, "They're divine..." ;-), and finally hands Dana the check.  "Wow, that must be at least 5 years of bad dates right there!"  "Hey, I'm just getting started" ;-);

Josh Brener playing Lyle (the also ever optimistic but really nerdy google manager who comes to be responsible for the team of misfits that Vince Vaugn's and Owen Wilson's characters inevitably get placed on as none of the other, much younger interns wanted to be placed on a team "with two dinosaurs;" 

And finally Billy and Nick's team misfit team members themselves: Stewart (played by Dylan O'Brien) who spends the first half of the movie surfing on his smart-phone convinced that everything is going to end up badly anyway; Yo-yo Santos (played by Tobit Raphael) a home schooled computer prodigy whose mother played a way more important role in his life than she ever should have ("Were you beaten up a lot in school?"  "I was home schooled by my mother," "Were you beaten up a lot by your mother in home school?" ;-) and punished himself by plucking at his eyebrows when he was bad; and the ever cheerful, in theory "worldly" Neha (played by Tiya Sircar), but also one who thus far spent a lot more time looking at what was playing on a computer screen than what was playing/going-on in the real world.  It becomes obvious then, how Billy and Nick could come to contribute "to the team" and how a team like this could (despite initial reservations) actually come together and even succeed.

So all in all, a pretty good film ;-)

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