Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Intern

Dinner and a Movie

The Internal American

By Steve Herte

The Intern (WB, 2015) – Director: Nancy Meyers. Writer: Nancy Meyers. Stars: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm, JoJo Kushner, Andrew Rannells, Adam DeVine, Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley, Christina Scherer, Nat Wolff, Linda Lavin, Celia Weston, Steve Vinobich, & C.J. Wilson. Color, rated PG-13, 121 minutes.

Ben Whittaker (De Niro), a retiree and widower of three and a half years, travels the globe, tries yoga and various hobbies but still comes home to “nowhere to go from here.” Whatever he does to occupy his mind, it’s not the same as a regular job. It’s not like he doesn’t have friends. Patty (Lavin) would like him to spend more time with her, but he needs to have a daily routine similar to the 40 years he worked managing the publishing staff at a company that made telephone books.

One day he notices a flyer from an online fashion company called At the Fit hiring “Senior Interns.” He reads it, likes the idea, makes a video resumé (with the unseen help of his grandson) and applies for the job. After a few hilarious interviews with twenty-somethings, he and two other seniors get the available positions along with Davis (Pearlman) who applied for a regular young intern spot. On the first day, the new interns are assigned different areas of the company in which to begin working. Ben is assigned to the boss, Jules Ostin (Hathaway), who rides through the office on her white bicycle to save time.

The “Senior Intern” concept was hatched by Cameron (Rannells), and was something he and Jules had discussed in the past, though Jules is so busy she doesn’t remember it. Now, she has this neatly suit-clad, polite 70-year-old as an intern and no idea what to do with him. But as the days go by, Ben finds things to do, eventually endearing himself to the entire staff. When he clears off a table piled high with junk, Jules notices (she’s complained about the growing, horrendous pile every day). So does the company masseuse Fiona (Russo), who eventually sees him as the first man she’s wanted to “hang out” with in a long time – much to Patty’s dismay when Ben later brings Fiona to a funeral.

When Ben sees Mike (Wilson), Jules’ driver, drinking from a flask before she arrives, he talks him out of driving intoxicated and becomes Jules’ driver. From there, Ben meets Jules’ husband Matt (Holm) and adorable daughter Paige (Kushner) and becomes a part of the family. So much so that at one point he accepts Paige’s plea to take her to a friend’s birthday party when the babysitter is unavailable. “What’s your friend’s name?” “Maddie.” “Which one is she?” “The one right over there, wearing pink.” The camera cuts to the jungle gym and all of the little girls are in pink.

Back at the office, Cameron and the other assistants think the company is growing too fast for Jules to handle alone and suggest hiring a CEO to help with the administrative end of business. Jules doesn’t like the idea, but agrees to interview the candidates. Ben is very impressed by what she’s done so far and doesn’t think she needs help managing the company, but he keeps it discreetly to himself. One by one, Jules rejects the CEOs until one applies who needs her to fly to San Francisco to conduct the interview. Matt can’t go with her because of a commitment with Paige and Paige suggests Ben accompany her.

Over the course of the short trip, Ben and Jules share backgrounds and, after a fire alarm empties their hotel, the two return to Jules’ room. The resulting conversation turns to the fact that Matt is having an affair with the stay-at-home mother of her daughter's schoolmate. Ben knows, because he saw them together when he brought Paige home from the birthday party, and Jules has known for months. This concern is what has been affecting her recent performance, which in turn spurred Cameron’s CEO hiring idea.

The Intern is a wonderfully engaging film that allows Robert De Niro to display the full range of his acting talents. He’s charming, stern, sentimental, and the quintessential “Dutch Uncle.” At one point, Jules notices that he’s not at his workstation and asks where he is. “Oh, Ben? Mr. Congeniality? He’s over there helping Justin.” Anne Hathaway does an excellent job playing the competent manager of a start-up industry, while being the caring mom and sensitive, injured wife who loves her husband as well as her job. Zack Pearlman and Rene Russo are both delightful and look like they both enjoyed their roles.

As for me, I loved the movie, all two hours and one minute. It was easy to believe all the characters and identify with the male lead. I knew what he was going through, being his age and working in a company run by much younger people. When Ben revealed to Jules that the company was located in the exact same location as the one he retired from, I loved the twist.

The Intern is squeaky clean, full of humor sprinkled with pathos and excellent direction by Nancy Meyers. I can see nominations coming it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

American Cut
363 Greenwich St. (between Harrison and Franklin streets)New York

Something about the address of this seven-month old steakhouse opened by Iron Chef Marc Forgione was strikingly familiar. I decided to pass by it on my lunch-hour constitutional. Once I saw the black-framed windows one-step up from the sidewalk on a black steel grating with matching rails, I knew I’ve dined there before. The last time it was an Italian restaurant called Trattoria Cinque and the times before (I loved this place) it was the Devin Tavern, an innovative American cuisine restaurant.

At dinner time I walked in like I owned the place and indeed, the layout hasn’t changed too much over the years. The open-brick walls were still mostly there. The bar was in the same place at the front. The opening from the bar into the main dining area had been closed in and the fireplaces in the main dining area had also been bricked in and closed off. The new chandeliers are large, art-deco affairs in monochrome white. But I was seated just beyond the bar, next to the window onto the main area. This was approximately where I sat in Trattoria Cinque and, if I were on the other side of the window, I would be sitting at my favorite table of Devin Tavern.

When I realized this, I told my server, Tamas after he asked me if I’d dined with them before. I let him know that I chose this restaurant on Marc Forgione’s name alone because OpenTable.com did not have a link to their menu or their website. Tamas assured me he’d let management know. He brought me my water and presented me with both the food menu and wine list and then explained the unique dishes of American Cut. When I had a chance to look at the specialty cocktails list in the wine book, I ordered the bacon apple boom – maple bacon infused VDKA 6100, green apple garnish, tarragon, and lemon. The drink had a smoky citrus flavor to it with overtones of tarragon, but was disappointingly lacking in any bacon flavor. This would not normally bother me if I hadn’t had a drink at the Hurricane Club (now closed) that tasted exactly like drinking bacon.

While I was choosing my dinner, another server brought the bread. It was a single, large buttermilk biscuit topped with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onions, and went well with the soft herbal butter that shared its place on a slab of black marble.

The wine list prices were so insanely inflated, that it was much, much cheaper to have wine by the glass. This is what I did.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice was that the entire staff was on the move almost constantly. No one lingered in one space for too long and maybe only half the tables were occupied. I can understand efficient service, but I almost had to tie Tamas down to make sure he got my entire order. He was like a greyhound after the rabbit.

My first dish was one of the signature recipes of American Cut, called Chili Lobster. When Tamas described it he mentioned that it was spicy – “It has a little heat.” In a beautiful bowl, the one claw and tail of a lobster were cut up into sections easily pried out with a special fork and bathing in an orange sauce along with four triangles of “Texas toast” (thick cut bread, deep fried). The sauce was quite spicy and comparable to a Thai coconut curry. It made the tender lobster very tasty (Sorry, lobster lovers, I was never a fan). The wine I chose for this course was a lovely, 2013 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel from California.

Though American Cut’s menu described an interesting twist on a Caesar salad, I decided on the fall salad, which sounded lighter. Served on a plate were red and green fall greens, thinly sliced pickled squash, a drizzling of goat cheese, and thinly sliced and toasted pumpernickel bread. The bread was an interesting addition to a salad and was nicely presented, but I had to use my knife to cut the large pieces of leaf lettuce and, after one or two bites, there was not a speck of goat cheese to be found. I thought it should have had more. Otherwise, it was very good. The wine of choice was a 2012 Piero Busso Nebbiolo, from Langhe, Piedmont, Italy. It was not as assertive as the Zinfandel, which was perfect for the milder flavors of the salad.

Even though Tamas had me interested with his description of the New York cut steak (the most expensive one on the menu I chose my favorite, the 10 oz. filet mignon cooked “black and blue” (very rare and crisp on the outside) because I wanted to compare Marc Forgione’s methods with ones with which I am familiar. Again, it was beautifully done and cooked correctly but a little on the dry side.

To go with it, I ordered another signature dish, the Latkes. I love potato pancakes and I like them in a particular way. These were served stacked like lasagna, only with layers of gribenes (rendered chicken fat), apple, and sour cream. I found the thickness of the latkes was about twice what I’m used to and they were kept from being crisp by the liquids from the other ingredients. Occasionally, I found a crisp spot, but I would have liked them to be all through the dish. Granted, they were tasty, but far from what I expected. (Maybe I should have gone for the hash browns.) But the wine was fantastic. The 2013 Fiancetto Gravelly Loam Cabernet from Napa Valley was rich, full-bodied, thick with fruit and had a strong, delicious after taste.

As dessert time rolled around, much like the cocktail list, one item’s title caught my attention: The AC Car Bomb. Its ingredients alone were fascinating: chocolate bread pudding, Jameson butterscotch, bananas, and Guinness ice cream. It was excellent, though not as strong on the butterscotch as I would like (nothing ever is, except for Ben and Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor), but is still a wonderful dessert. To finish I had my usual double espresso and, in this case, a nice glass of Montenegro Amaro.

American Cut is a good restaurant, but needs to slow down. I couldn’t help but feel I was being rushed. Tamas never had time to talk, which took away the personal side from the service. As a steakhouse, it might make my top 10 if I return and try the New York cut steak, but right now Uncle Jack’s in New York and Prime Rib in Philadelphia have nothing to worry about.

A final note, the restaurant is only nine blocks from 1, 4 and 7 World Trade Center, which looked beautiful lit up at night. Judge for yourself.

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