The Intervention, 2016.
Written and directed by Clea DuVall.
Starring Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne, Melanie Lynskey, Clea DuVall, Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Vincent Piazza and Alia Shawkat.
A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.
In a slight twist on the intervention/group of friends gathered motif, Clea DuVall’s directorial debut deals with love and marriage rather than drugs or drink, at least to begin with. It’s Ruby (Smulders) and Peter (Piazza) marriage that takes centre stage here, with their best friends adamant that their toxic relationship has strained its last strain and for the good of them and the collective, divorce is the path best chosen. But in focusing on Ruby and Peter’s all-but-doomed matrimony, it’s detracts them from their own issues which no-one dares admit to themselves: Lynskey’s bride-to-be battles with cold feet (with three postponements thus far on her own nuptials to Jason Ritter) and the bottle; Jessie (DuVall) and Sarah (Lyonne) while blissfully happy for three years still don’t live together as they try to bury their relationship demons; while Jack (Schwartz) is lost in the heartbreak of losing his late wife, content to “have fun” with twenty-something Lola (Shawkat). Intervention convention is more like it.
We’ve been here many times before with this conceit: group of friends gather to reminisce, discuss the future and confront their demons new or buried deep. And despite treading familiar ground, writer/director DuVall keeps things at such a great pace that you soon get sucked into the house with its occupants and join their emotional rollercoaster. The humour sparkles throughout, with some quick-fire but biting dialogue that for the most part feels Woody Allen-esque (Good Allen, not bad) that zips along with many big laughs. Moreover, the film’s human moments feel really and heartfelt, with DuVall keeping things simple and affecting, all the while inviting us in closer and closer as the various strands to unravel. Backed up by some stellar work by DoP Polly Morgan and Sara Quin’s beautiful score, DuVall is certainly a filmmaker to keep an eye on.
The true strength of The Intervention isn’t in the aforementioned witticisms and realistic drama but in the weight of its cast who are uniformly excellent. DuVall leaves much room for improvisation amongst the eight strong cast, who are allowed breathing space to maneuver in and around the script and keep each other on their toes. Smulders is the film’s biggest triumph, mixing her impeccable comedic senses that flourished on How I Met Your Mother with rarely-seen dramatic chops that sees her excel throughout. Melanie Lynsky continues to be one of Hollywood’s most underrated comediennes (as does Natasha Lyonne, on fine form also) and only adds more weight to that fact with another brilliant performance. DuVall sidelines herself slightly in amongst the pack as she juggles writer/director duties but is never less than engaging and enjoys some excellent sparkles with Lyonne.
The only disappointment to be found here is in the film’s resolution which despite being somewhat surprising still feels somewhat flat. After such an emotional journey with these characters and to see their real self’s come to the fore, you’re just left feeling a little unsatisfied, perhaps more so as you almost don’t want your time with them to end.
It follows a path most travelled but with its zingy dialogue, sparkling humour and genuine human moments, The Intervention feels fresh and inviting. Add to that its stellar cast who perform superbly and this is another little gem from the realms of Sundance.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis is a Senior Staff Writer and Roving Reporter for Flickering Myth – Follow him on Twitter