Making the Grade

‘The Internship’ Reviewed Through the Eyes of The Daily Beast’s Intern

Jean Trinh examines the Vince Vaughn–Owen Wilson workplace comedy and her own quest to reinvent herself.

Phil Bray

It’s perfect timing that The Internship is released today, near the end of my six-month stretch as an intern for the entertainment bureau of The Daily Beast. I knew watching the film would get me to reflect on my own experience and it would be hard not to compare it to the Google shrine I knew the film would portray. There aren’t too many companies offering free housing and meals during an entire summer internship as the film depicts.

Would I find the film relatable and would it make me feel better about taking an unconventional career route? Or would it leave me huddled in the fetal position on my bathroom floor two hours later? After all, the last time I watched Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson pair up it was for the raunchy 2005 hit comedy Wedding Crashers—that was eight years ago, soon after I finished undergraduate school. Their characters are different and more mature in this new film, and in the same vein, I’ve grown up since then, too.

In The Internship, Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) are two 40-something watch salesmen who get laid off. Their boss (John Goodman) closes up shop and burns it into them that they’re “dinosaurs,” particularly now that people don’t need watches because they check their smartphones for the time. Instead of heading to a soul-sucking job, they decide to try something new, reinvent themselves, and apply for an internship at Google, in hopes of obtaining full-time employment afterward.

I know that feeling. This is my second go-round with internships—once in undergraduate school, and now nearly a decade later at the beginning of my 30s. In other words, I’m pretty sure Vaughn wrote this film for me. In my case, I wasn’t laid off from my job, but had lost the passion for the career path I had taken and felt stagnant. That was my reason to try something new—something I had always wanted to do. How could I go from making a decent income to barely anything? I’m a grown adult and have bills to pay!

Billy and Nick are admirable in their optimism about landing a job at Google, despite having zero background in technology. In one scene during their Google interview, Billy explains the reason he included the computer-programming language C++ on his résumé—he scored a “C+” as a grade in class, and the extra plus sign represented his positive attitude on his mediocre grade. It doesn’t seem plausible that they’d land the internship, but at least they show it never hurts to try.

All the summer interns are pitted against each other—dubbed here as The Hunger Games—separated into small groups to participate in competitions such as creating apps and servicing Google hotlines. The prize: a full-time job at the company. Of course, that isn’t how the real world works—it’s not even how Google operates. However, the message remains that interns need to prove their worth and work their asses off. Although the film is rather predictable, Billy and Nick have no idea if they will win the challenge, but they keep on trekking through the competitions. True to real life, employment is never guaranteed after an internship. While there’s always blind faith in the best-case scenario—landing a job—the silver medal goes to gaining some priceless experience.

Although I’m younger than Billy and Nick’s characters, I secretly felt like I would be a “dinosaur” interning at my age, competing against some young, bright, and competitive students. The duo, however, embrace their age and the fact that they are out of touch with the youthful interns at Google. Billy can’t tell the difference between saying “on-the-line” and “online,” they don’t know who Professor X from X-Men is, and Billy keeps making references to the ’80s flick Flashdance in one of his many Tony Robbins-esque pep talks. (At least I know the difference between boy bands One Direction and The Wanted.) Eventually, they start taking Google courses and Nick starts understanding HTML and coding. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks—if you’re willing to learn on the job.

The Internship offers insight into how an age gap can play in a person’s favor. Although these two aren’t tech-savvy, they do have more life experiences than their younger cohorts. They’re confident and have strong social skills to build rapport with others. It’s true—there are some things that can’t replace experience and age.

The film is full of naysayers—from the Google intern leader Mr. Chetty (Aasif Mandvi) to all-around villain (complete with a British accent) and competitor Graham (Max Minghella). They spend their time discouraging Billy and Nick from pursuing their dreams, highlighting their failures. Yet, the duo stay optimistic—a hard thing to do in real life. It’s something everyone can learn from: It’s important to not be so cynical in order to take a step forward, especially when taking on an internship.

Although my future is still uncertain, I know Rome wasn’t built overnight. It’s hard to knock Vaughn for trying to push a film with a positive message to young and old job hunters in this economy, even when it feels like a backdrop for Google product placements. After watching this film, I can proudly say my confidence hasn’t been shattered and I’m not huddled in a fetal position on my bathroom floor.