Robert de Nero is a retired Baby Boomer who feels like he has more to give the world. Anne Hathaway is a Gen X owner of a dot com business who struggles to manage a healthy work/life balance, and the mothers of her daughter’s friends are horrible, and the investors behind her company feel like she needs a male CEO to run the company. Basically, Hathaway is a complete mess of a human and she needs de Nero to support her like a surrogate father-figure. She rides a bike through her office and cries a lot; if only she had an older male to tell her how to do things. Fortunately, her company has decided to have a ‘senior intern’ programme with actual seniors! Lololol. Unemployment rate for Gen Y is astronomical but lololol Boomers taking our jobs.
If this sounds like a garbage film written by Baby Boomers to pander to Baby Boomer intuitions about the world, you’re correct.
The best bit about the film is its finite duration. In the real world, we have to tolerate the incursion of Baby Boomers into every single aspect of our waking life. They invent terms like ‘age discrimination’ to shame competent people into hiring them over more competent people. They stack parliament, company boards, television, and cinema, yet they still feel like they’re not given a fair share of the pie. My generation has to pay for their health care (which they underfunded because they didn’t want to pay taxes) and pay the infrastructure deficit (because they wanted to fund tax cuts from the mining booms rather than invest in my generation’s future). But, nah, let’s have a heart warming comedy about how Baby Boomers have something to offer the world apart from a steady supply of Soylent Green meat.
The film is so single-minded about drilling this propaganda that it forgets to resolve the (many) story lines. Hathaway’s investors want her to get a CEO. Come the final credits, she’s decided not to hire a CEO… but then the story ends. How on Earth does she resolve the conflict that began the ‘I need a CEO’ plot? Do the investors rip the money out of the company? Does her company crash into the ground? What happens?
Similarly with other subplots. The horrible mothers who snipe at Hathaway because she’s successful just vanish. For fifteen minutes of the film, this is the biggest of all the big deals… then they vanish. The same thing happens with Hathaway’s relationship with her mother. Although it results in the best scene of the film (de Nero and a bunch of younger actors enacting an Oceans 11 plot), it doesn’t go anywhere.
Not every character in a film will have a fully fledged character arc. You start somewhere with the character and, by the end, you are somewhere else with the character. You can discover a lot about the ideological assumptions that ground the film by comparing the character arcs.
In this film, Robert de Nero thinks that he is useful and still has a lot to offer the world. He goes to work for a dot com company. All of the challenges he faces are a result of ‘ageism’, but he resolutely refuses to meet anybody half way, compromise, or change himself. By the end of the film, we have the same Robert de Nero, except he now works for a dot com company.
Anne Hathaway, on the other hand, goes through the ringer. Her life falls apart. She makes compromises and negotiates aspects of her personality to accommodate others (particularly de Nero). She has regrets, failures, and disappointments. She changes as a person. By the end of the film, we have a completely changed Anne Hathaway.
It would be easy to claim that this film demonstrates absolutely no faith in Gen X women to run companies, but it’s so much worse than that. The film actively promotes the idea that young people are incompetent. They’re quirky and zany and scattered and they need to reconnect with old world values. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are perfect and overlooked.
Skip this film. You’ll thank me when you don’t have to sit through a ‘Robert de Nero has an erection’ joke.
In other news, I’ve started a blog specifically for topics in the intersection of legal theory and constitutional law: re-Constituted.