In the annals of Hollywood movie history, the great American workplace is most often seen as a depressing, boring and soulless environment, where workers are treated almost like slaves, and bosses are cruel, petty, rapacious and ruthless. The stereotypes are central to movies like Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ (1936), through films like ‘Network’ (1976) and George Clooney’s ‘Up in the Air’ (2010).
But the latest workplace movie, ‘The Internship’, is the complete opposite, painting workplace life at a modern technology company as a fun-filled meritocracy, where workers and bosses are sympathetic, and where the perks are so good you never want to leave.
The film rekindles the ‘Wedding Crashers’ “bromance” between Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who in ‘The Internship’ star as a couple of old-school watch salesmen, deciding to apply to Google when they are fired from their jobs. They become Nooglers (that’s “New Googlers” for those unfamiliar with the local speech terms at the cult-like company). Their efforts to shine among 1,500 20-something brainiacs are an apt and often amusing metaphor for the struggles many older folks face in adapting to a fast-moving digital world – where youth is prized above all.
They run after a car to ask for directions, only to discover that it’s one of the Company’s driverless vehicles; and they dodge a bearded guy in yoga pants on a scooter - a cameo role for the Company’s billionaire founder, Sergey Brin. The appearance of Brin underlines the immense co-operation Google gave to director Shawn Levy, whose work on ‘A Night at the Museum’ apparently convinced the Company that he was capable of depicting large institutions in a sympathetic light.
The Film takes an uneven approach on the accuracy of its depiction of the web software giant. It’s true, for instance, that Google hires some 1,500 of the brightest college students in the US every year, but it does not pit them against each other in ultra-competitive games (as depicted in the movie). The Movie’s arch villain, an arrogant British intern, would also not be likely to ever be accepted at Google, Company insiders say. The Film seems to take the Company’s motto of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ at face value, and never even touches on oft-heard complaints about Google’s privacy breaches and monopolization of web searches.
Though Google did not have veto power over any scenes in the Film, it did voice reservations over an episode in which the driverless car crashes - an incident that belied the vehicles’ exemplary safety record.
Google granted the filmmakers unparalleled access to its staff and the Googleplex - its complex of luxuriously appointed building at its Silicon Valley HQ.
The Company’s collaborative approach was in marked contrast to the decision of Facebook to ignore and obstruct the makers of the last big tech-themed movie, ‘The Social Network’.
“The reason we got involved is because computer science has a marketing problem,” said Google CEO, Larry Page. “We are the nerdy curmudgeons.” Page said that the movie’s coolest character was a headphone-wearing, mostly silent engineer, who ends up playing a key role in the climactic scene. “We are really excited about that,”