In a movie world awash in clichéd romantic comedies or raunchy sex romps, there’s something downright refreshing about the new movie “The Intern.” It’s a story about a friendship between a man and a woman – one that never threatens to be sexualized, and which shows that there can be great beauty and wisdom shared between the genders, and even more importantly between generations. Coming amid a week in which Pope Francis’ visit to the US is helping (among other things) draw attention to the dignity of the human spirit, this is a beautiful example of putting those values in action.
The movie stars Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, both of whom have Oscar-winning pedigrees and who team up with writer-director Nancy Meyers to create a film that’s not only refreshingly clean in its values but also in its often hilarious comedic sense. Meyers has established herself as Hollywood’s greatest female director of comedies, thanks to modern classics like “Something’s Gotta Give,” “It’s Complicated” and “The Holiday,” and here she comes up with perhaps her biggest winner yet.

The movie follows a 70-year-old widower named Ben (Robert DeNiro), who is retired and lonely and has been filling the void in his life with a slew of classes and activities like tai chi. When a hip Web-based fashion company owned by a much younger married mom named Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) announces that it’s looking for senior citizens as interns as part of a community outreach, Ben applies and scores a position.

Yet while Ben quickly ingratiates himself with the 20somethings who dominate the staff, giving them valuable life lessons and the wisdom of his years, Jules is distant to him and barely gives him anything to do. She thinks that the internship is a dumb publicity stunt created by her partner, but when Ben takes over for her driver one day after he sees the man sneaking swigs of alcohol, Jules gets to know him well and realizes he’s magic.

Thus begins a fresh and wonderful friendship, in a series of incidents that alternate hilarious comic moments with touchingly tender ones. Along the way, Ben has to lead a break-in into Jules’ mom’s house so he and a trio of the young guys can find the mom’s laptop and delete a mean-spirited email from Jules before she gets home, and he also finds himself serving as Jules’ emotional lifeline when he discovers her stay-home-dad husband (Anders Holm) is having an affair. He also begins a sweet relationship with the company masseuse (Rene Russo).

“The Intern” sneaks up on viewers, at first appearing to be an almost-random series of events from the characters’ lives. But as they are drawn into their well-written and acted characters, audiences will find that they genuinely care about these people – even the goofy young-guy interns and the cheating husband – in a way that’s all too rare in today’s mainstream Hollywood movies.

One other bonus in “The Intern” is that writer-director Meyers has a lot of spot-on things to say about marriage, forgiveness, and what constitutes a real man in today’s Peter Pan culture. The young guys learn from Ben to spiff up their attire, appreciate briefcases, and truly talk to women rather than merely text or email them.

Meanwhile, Meyers shows Jules and her husband learning that switching traditional gender/parent roles can go too far, and stands up for a more traditional way of life. For a female director who’s drawn to creating strong female roles in her movies, Meyers has a surprisingly pro-masculine take on relationships both at work and at home.

With the savvy casting of two of our classiest current stars, “The Intern” literally has something for everyone young and old, male and female. And with its adultery plotline merely implied and discussed in non-graphic terms and just one F word constituting the reason for its PG13 rating, it’s perfectly acceptable fare for any teen or adult who wants to see it.

But is it Dateworthy? Absolutely! This offers not just a lot of laughs and a few tears, but plenty for people to discuss afterwards. What more can you ask for?