With an ensemble cast telling a relatable story about friends and lovers, Clea DuVall succeeds with her directorial and writing debut feature film. The Intervention stars Natasha Lyonne, Melanie Lynskey, and DuVall, bringing a But I’m A Cheerleader reunion to the screen, and also adds Cobie Smulders and Jason Ritter, among others.
This is a fun and heartfelt story about four couples who gather for a weekend away at Jessie (DuVall) & Ruby’s (Smulders) family vacation house. Jessie and Ruby are sisters, each with their significant others in tow.
Jessie and her girlfriend, Sarah (Lyonne), are the cute lesbian couple. Then we have Annie (Lynskey) and Matt (Ritter), a seemingly average couple. There is recently single Jack (Ben Schwartz) and his current squeeze, Lola (Alia Shawkat) who is young, carefree and out of place amongst this group. And finally, there’s Ruby and Peter (Vincent Piazza), the unhappily married couple.
Pointing The Finger
At some point we’ve all either had or been that nosey friend who is always giving their unsolicited advice or trying to fix what they see as broken in everyone else, while taking no account for their own baggage. In The Intervention, Annie is that friend, and she has made it her personal mission this weekend to stage an intervention for Ruby and Peter, who are bickering with each other from their arrival. The intervention is to convince them that they need to divorce.
Annie has managed to reluctantly rope Jessie, Sarah, Jack and Matt into going along with her plan to play marriage intervention. While no one but Annie seems too enthusiastic about the whole idea, Jack is the only one who openly voices his concerns against it. As Peter’s best friend, he took a stand for his buddy in warning the ladies it may not go over well.
After the group fumbles through a failed intervention, Ruby and Peter react in opposite yet equally unfavorable ways. While Ruby shuns everyone and retreats into a bedroom for privacy, Peter points the finger at everyone else, calling them out and forcing them to look at the problems in their own lives.
Calling Everyone Out
Jessie and Sarah are facing the beast of boredom, commitment issues and the insecurities that come along with it. At one point, Sarah’s insecurities are so overpowering that they ruin her chances of getting lucky, which she makes a huff about after Jessie rolls over and turns out the lights.
This scene gave me a flashback to the first time I saw these two on-screen kissing in a bed in But I’m A Cheerleader, with a relationship blossoming. Fast forward fifteen years to where it’s gotten stale and boring, but with no love loss for each other at the same time. This couple felt like a grown up version of the characters I was first introduced to them as: Megan and Graham.
The tension between the two women begins when Sarah is flirted with while they are getting their rental car in the beginning of the film, and peaks when Jessie is flirted with later on. Through the film tension builds between them, comes to a head, and then eases into a satisfactory resolve.
The chemistry between Lyonne and DuVall in The Intervention feels natural and believable, which is likely due to their real life close friendship. Sarah’s character is much more mild-mannered and tame from that of the wild-natured Nicky Nichols in Orange Is The New Black. Lyonne‘s onscreen presence never fails to engage the audience with her natural charisma. Paired with DuVall‘s laid back charm, the duo make an enjoyable couple to watch.
Jack is dealing with the heartbreak of losing his wife and rebounding with the young hot Lola as a fun distraction to his pain, but he too is called out. Lola seems to rub everyone the wrong way, as she isn’t part of their already established click but she’s also at least a decade younger than everyone else there, not old enough to even catch their pop culture references. But when she flirts with Jessie, Peter walks in on an unintended kiss and calls it out while he’s lashing out at the group; fanning the flames between Jessie and Sarah even more.
Lola is a refreshing relief from the drama with her carefree attitude. She may not fit in with the group but she’s a nice fit on-screen, much to the credit of Shawkat for a flawless performance. With her adorable pixie-esque lure, Lola is fun to watch, even if it feels like she’s more Jack’s accessory than one of the main characters. Her role served a purpose, and it was executed with delight.
The Finger Points Back
Everyone in the film takes some time to cool off and explore their own issues, but they reconstruct their friendly circle with a successful intervention. This time, Annie finds herself in the hot seat with the fingers pointed at her.
It becomes clear that what’s really going on in The Intervention is Annie’s own insecurities, and guilty feelings that she’s living in denial of are brewing just below the surface. She’s been using alcohol to mask what’s going on with her, leading her friends to believe that her actual problem is with drinking. But the real issue tugging at her heart and mind are more close to home than she wants to admit; her very own relationship with Matt.
It’s easier for Annie to see what’s wrong with her friend’s relationship – her friends who clearly shouldn’t be together because they don’t get along and never seem happy. But what she isn’t privy to is that behind closed doors, when they’re able to let go of the daily stress and connect, Ruby and Peter do love each other, albeit imperfectly. Anyone who has experienced marriage troubles can likely relate to the dynamic played out here between this couple. Kudos to Smulders for an emotional portrayal of a distraught wife who now feels betrayed by her sister and friends.
Annie is the type of character that Lynskey portrays well. She’s well-meaning but nosy and overzealous. Lynskey did this well with the role of Rose on Two and a Half Men. Annie’s a much more rational, logical and sane woman than Rose was, of course. But she’s complicated in a more-than-meets-the-eye way too. When you start to see that, her motives become more clear. Annie is the type of character who may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but her close friends love and accept her, flaws and all.
Annie finds herself coming to terms with the fact that she’s the one who has been living a lie. The time has come for her to face her issue head on. It’s a bitter-sweet end for Annie, and Lynskey did a great job at showing the arc this character goes through, which comes full circle in this story. The woman we see at the end of the film isn’t going home to the same life she knew when we were first introduced to her.
Clea DuVall successfully handled the task of staring and directing, which is not easy but she did it and she did it well. As an actor, she’s well versed in how one part of the movie-making world goes: learn your lines, show up and bring your character to life. Directors take on a much larger responsibility in overseeing the entire production and knowing how to communicate your vision not only to your fellow cast-mates but to your technical crew in production and post-production.
For a first time director, I tip my hat to DuVall for a job well done. It all came together nicely, starting with a story that comes full circle, and with complicated and relatable characters. She kept it simple with one main location. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the set or the setup, but because it was simple, relatable and an easy story to digest, it works. Not typical of Hollywood films, this story is led by women, while the men take a backseat.
Filmed in Georgia at a beautiful estate, there was one location where most of the story took place, keeping the budget low. The score was a light and subtle touch of perfectly fitting melodies by Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara. Cinematography by Polly Morgan was sharp and tight. She captured the story well visually, and brings us to the table so we feel like we’re part of what’s going on. Tamara Meem, who edited the film, cut it together well, showing the smooth collaboration between DuVall and Morgan, bringing the creative and technical vision together to tell this story.
Not only is this a film that passes the Bechdel Test and also shows some genuine female bonding, which resonates with how real women bond, making it relatable to the every-woman, but this film also has a core crew of women at its helm on the technical end too.
The writing of The Intervention was cleverly done, with a relatable story that comes full circle and witty dialogue. Each member of the cast gave a solid and enjoyable performance. The characters were well-rounded and believable, each with their own set of unique charms and human flaws.
As a 30-something myself, I recognize my friends and me, and the bits and pieces of the various relationship struggles we’ve dealt with over the last decade. And that’s why it works for me: it speaks to my group of friends and our generation. When I watched this film, I felt like I knew these people.
This is a film that some might say falls into the “goldie-lock zone”, and you’ve got to be at just the right stage in your life to appreciate it – but for those of us who are there, The Intervention is a great film.
Have your friends ever tried to meddle in your personal relationships? Have you meddled in theirs, thinking you knew what was best for them, if so how did that work out? Discuss in comments!
The Intervention opens in theaters and VOD on August 26th.
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