Intern (The)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (25th July 2011).
The Film

The Intern/Intern (Michael Lange, 2000)

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Covering much the same ground as the more successful 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, The Intern (Michael Lange, 2000) tells the story of Jocelyn Bennett (Dominique Swain), an intern at the New York fashion magazine Skirt. At a meeting, it is revealed that Skirt has its own ‘deep throat’, a turncoat who is selling ideas to its competitor, Vogue. As Skirt’s employees work to identify the infiltrator, Jocelyn grows closer to the magazine’s hunky British art editor, Paul Rochester (Ben Pullen). However, Jocelyn finds that in order to win Paul’s heart, she must compete with Paul’s girlfriend, the model Resin (Leilani Bishop).

The quickfire humour and (mostly) office setting of The Intern can’t help but remind the viewer of the screwball comedies of the 1930s and early 1940s, including Howard Hawks’ newsroom-set His Girl Friday (1940) and Lewis Milestone’s earlier The Front Page (1931). However, as could probably be expected, The Intern is far less successful than the Coens’ The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), which kickstarted a renewed interest in the screwball pictures during the mid-1990s. Additionally, many of the jokes in The Intern involve quickfire gags about the minutiae of the fashion world, combined with plenty of (brand) name-dropping and complete with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos from luminaries of the fashion world, which makes the film difficult to watch for someone who isn’t interested in fashion – or, considering how rapidly trends in the fashion world change, perhaps even viewers who are well-versed in today’s fashion world.

Dominique Swain is eminently likeable as Jocelyn. It seems that Swain found it hard to escape her casting as ‘that girl’ in Adrian Lyne’s 1997 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which is a shame because she was a sympathetic young actress with a good range. Throughout the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, she found roles in ‘indie’ pics like The Intern and Girl (Jonathan Kahn, 1998).

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However, the film is filled with the kinds of archetypes that were popular in American sitcoms and ‘indie’ pics at the time; Ben Pullen’s Paul, the film’s token ‘Brit’ (and thus, symbol of another culture), is the most obvious example. The film is thus very much of its era; its opening sequence is also interrupted by a self-aware, highly-choreographed song-and-dance number (‘She’s an intern/A pathetic, lowly intern [….] Give me copy/Kiss my ass’) that screams Ally McBeal (Fox, 1997-2002). Another index of 1990s ‘indie’ cinema is a high level of self-awareness, and The Intern demonstrates this in spades: after the opening titles, we are presented with a sequence in which Jocelyn addresses the camera directly, introducing us to ‘Skirt magazine headquarters: ie, where fashion trends are invented’. ‘I like to think of myself as a missionary, to salvage the tacky’, she says. She tells the receptionist - who asks ‘What are all these cameras doing?’ - that she’s ‘doing the tour for Channel Thirteen that nobody else wanted to do’. At the end of the film, the sequence is repeated with a new intern: Jocelyn has landed her dream job with the magazine.

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The film is subtly critical of the fashion world, and its obsession with surface, in ways that The Devil Wears Prada was not. For example, the opening party sequence (described by an onscreen title as ‘Skirt Magazine’s “See You in Autumn” Summer Bash’) foregrounds the bitchiness of the fashion world, as one of the guests (Kathy Griffin) says of another guest, ‘I can’t believe the editor of Vogue is going to be parading her bony ass at a Skirt party’. Shortly after, Jocelyn listens to another party guest (played by Nell Campbell) as she complains about having to ‘stop eating sushi for about twenty minutes, but then I thought: seize the diem [….] And honestly, what’s the worst thing that can happen? What, I get a tapeworm and can eat whatever I like and still lose twenty pounds? Then I’d really look like Karen Carpenter: on top of the world and looking down on creation’. Later in the film, the shoe editor collapses, and one of the employees suggests ‘Maybe we should take her shoes off or something’. Jocelyn removes the shoe editor’s uncomfortable-looking stilletos and we are presented with a close-up of her feet, her toes mangled and crushed through years of slavery to fashion.

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However, like The Devil Wears Prada, The Intern is ultimately a deeply conservative Cinderella-esque fable about an ugly duckling (metaphorically speaking) who turns into a beautiful swan, winning the affections of the man she desires and landing a prime job. It’s a genre that has been described as postfeminist and, in written fiction, labelled as ‘underling lit’: it is an example of ‘a strain of chick-lit that encompasses bestsellers like The Nanny Diaries which draw from the codes of Victorian literature, sketching scenarios where a morally superior but economically inferior young woman describes her employment in a wealthy household, documenting in meticulous detail the cruel and indifferent parenting she observes there’ (Negra, 2009: 105).

The film is apparently uncut and runs for 89:31 mins (PAL).

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Video

The film was apparently conceived for theatrical distribution (presumably at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1), and shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000, but it is presented here in a fullscreen aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This is presumably an open-matte transfer, although there are some shots that seem very tightly-framed, and so there could be an element of cropping.

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Aside from this, the transfer is pretty good.

Audio

Audio is presented via a two-channel track with some surround encoding. This is an effective audio track, although at times the dialogue seems to be mixed low - seemingly a problem of the film's production rather than this specific DVD release, it has to be said. Sadly, there are no subtitles.

Extras

The sole extra is the film’s trailer (2:18), which foregrounds the comic elements of the film. ‘Working with the fabulous and the freaky, Paul managed to be a normal guy’, the narrator intones, highlighting the romantic elements of the film, before suggesting that the Cinderella-like protagonist needs to ‘prove that there’s more to her than meets the eye’. ‘A romantic comedy about starting at the bottom and coming out on top’ is how the narrator summarises the movie.

Overall

A largely forgettable film, The Intern is admittedly difficult to dislike. It’s a film that’s very much a part of its zeitgeist, an era of Ally McBeal and HBO’s Sex and the City (1998-2004). Many of the jokes require an awareness of the fashion world, but there’s enough here for a casual viewer to enjoy.

References:
Negra, Diane, 2009: What a Girl Wants? London: Taylor & Francis

For more information, please visit the homepage of Network.

This review was kindly sponsored by:
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The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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