There’s beauty (and hilarity) in the breakdown.
Clea DuVall — known for supporting roles in the Oscar-recognized dramas Girl, Interrupted, 21 Grams and Argo — makes her directorial debut in the witty, well-crafted and compelling dramedy The Intervention. The film, in equal parts a story of love, acceptance and friendship, plays out like a couples therapy retreat gone awry, with three conspiring pairs gathering at a rural Georgia estate to encourage the split of a fourth and unsuspecting couple.
There’s the insistent and hilarious alcoholic Annie (Melanie Lynskey), who spearheads the campaign, and her subservient partner Matt (Jason Ritter); the genuine and likable lesbian duo of Sarah and Jessie (real life best friends Natasha Lyonne and DuVall); the laid-back, carefree Jack and Lola (Ben Schwartz and Alia Shawkat); and the ambushed couple, Ruby and Peter (Cobie Smulders and Vincent Piazza).
Initially, only one couple seems to be placed under the microscope. Ruby and Peter’s relationship is dissected and the fractures in their bond are highlighted. But by the end of the film, as secrets and suppressed truths surface, all characters — and their shifting relationships — are unpacked.
The Intervention, which fared well on the festival circuit, is reminiscent of the college buddy reunion classic The Big Chill and has tones akin to those in the more recent This Is Where I Leave You. The diverse dynamics displayed on screen make for an entertaining and engrossing experience that (thankfully!) offers audiences a dose of flavor different from the tired, stale superhero sequels and bland reboots occupying real estate in the landscape of cinema.
The performances in the ensemble film are arguably its strongest element. The cast is superb and well-equipped to tackle the tender moments of the story as well as the darkly humorous scenes. Not all characters are immediately likable, but the actors infuse a vulnerability and humility into their roles so that they resonate with viewers. Lynskey’s Annie is obnoxious and high-strung, yet demands empathy. She establishes herself as the funniest, sharpest, but also saddest and most scattered character, and this is a testament to Lynskey’s management of her part. Her performance is delicate and easily ranks among the best of her career.
Actors can only work with what they’re dealt, and the cast of The Intervention is handed all the material it needs. The script, penned by DuVall, is rich and juicy, oozing with quick wit and raw emotion. The dialogue is pointed and appealing, and when delivered by the skillful actors with authenticity and conviction, a visceral response is elicited. It’s evident from the beginning that Ruby and Peter will encounter anguish at the hands of their concerned friends, but DuVall weaves the story in a way that makes it impossible to turn away. She also avoids clichés and a predictable conclusion, ending the film with a twist. Streaks of the characters are subtly revealed and layers of each personality are peeled away throughout the duration of the film to sustain the audience’s investment in the story.
One component of the screenplay DuVall deserves special praise for is her treatment of her own character’s lesbian relationship with Lyonne’s Sarah. Their love and partnership is never isolated as “other” or immune from the challenges confronted by the heterosexual relationships in the film. It’s refreshing and unfortunately rare to see an honest homosexual bond laid bare on screen.
The Savannah, Georgia residence where the action transpires is stunning and provides a visually pleasing backdrop for the 90 minute film. The picturesque summer home also presents a contrast to the fierce storm brewing beneath its roof.
Polly Morgan’s cinematography is captivating and showcases the beauty of rural Georgia in full glory. Whether the camera is panning through the cozy cottage or scanning the lake lying next to the estate at sunset, the audience is thrust onto the property like invited guests, heightening the level of intimacy and engagement.
Following in the wake of The Big Chill, the soundtrack to the film is a talking point. It’s an eclectic, indie mix including new work by Sara Quin (of Tegan and Sara).
The near perfect balance of comedic and dramatic tones in The Intervention leaves the face muscles sore from smiling, and the mind stimulated by introspection. The audience is quickly immersed in the story and easily develops an attachment to the flawed and multi-dimensional characters. The film is tight, captivating and effective, and unlike typical blockbuster fare, The Intervention will make you laugh, cry, and most importantly — think.