Honestly, Robert De Niro had to work harder in his Vittoria coffee commercial than he does in this. The great actor who was Jake La Motta, Travis Bickle and the young Vito Corleone has gone soft in the latter stages of his stellar career, but it doesn’t matter a jot, for his charisma, gravitas and faultless timing remain undiminished. And in any case, the film belongs to Anne Hathaway and she carries it off beautifully. She is Jules, the fabulously successful founder and owner of an online fashion company. De Niro is Ben, a widowed, 70-year-old retiree who is employed as a junior as part of a policy designed to include more senior employees on staff. Jules is underwhelmed by the idea and Ben is a little too good to be true in what is a doubtful scenario to begin with, so it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to see in advance where the story is headed.
Writer/director Nancy Meyers, however, has earned a reputation for making movies of wit and insight, with a particular appreciation of her female characters – Something’s Gotta Give (2003) being a modern classic of the rom-com genre. Meyers (she is 65) also credits her audience with having enough life experience to want to look beyond the man-boy gaucherie that is now a staple and it is this mature approach, albeit with a light-hearted delivery, that breathes freshness and credibility into Jules’s personal crisis. Some of the dialogue tends to the declamatory – we shouldn’t need to have it spelt out for us, as Ben does for a pair of school mums, that Jules is a paragon who has smashed through the glass ceiling, or that working women must sacrifice all they’ve striven for to hold their family together – but then again, it doesn’t hurt to reinforce hard-won advances.
De Niro is terrific as the fogey in the Facebook age who shaves every day even if he has no engagements, and Hathaway is drop-dead gorgeous as the new-gen feminist.