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The Intervention (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

The Intervention

The Intervention


Starring Clea DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Natasha Lyonne, Vincent Piazza, Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat, Cobie Smulders, Skylar Bernon, David Bernon and Kira Pozehl.

Screenplay by Clea DuVall.

Directed by Clea DuVall.

Distributed by Paramount Home Video.  89 minutes.  Rated R.

It’s kind of hard to believe that for a relatively young movie-making style that is trying to be so revolutionary and different, mumblecore films have pretty much settled into a whole series of clichés already.  Take a group of attractive, smart, upper middle-class, slightly repressed thirty-something people, plunk them down in a gorgeous vacation home, set them loose and they all start acting like children.  They will drink heavily, party wildly, fuck passionlessly, argue violently, and in the end own up to how uncomfortable they are in their own skin.

You would be hard-pressed to differentiate this movie from Joshy, or Digging for Fire, or Drinking Buddies, or the TV series Togetherness, or Happy Christmas, or any number of films by the Duplass Brothers, or Joe & Kris Swansberg, or Lynn Shelton and any number of other hipster young indie directors who are searching for a natural, improvised feel.

While The Intervention has a terrific cast and some really good moments, the movie itself is rather hard to really warm up to.

As you probably have guessed by the title, The Intervention is about a weekend retreat in which three couples want to tell a fourth couple that their marriage isn’t working.  They all move in together for the weekend in a gorgeous Southern manor to have the uncomfortable talk.  (Somehow, in a point that is never exactly explained, these four couples can afford to share ownership of this spectacular home, pay for its maintenance and upkeep, even though none of them have visited the house in six years.)

The couples are as follows.  Peter and Ruby (Vincent Piazza and Cobie Smulders) are the married couple who are almost constantly passive-aggressively squabbling.  Annie and Matt (Melanie Lynskey and Jason Ritter) are an engaged couple who will not face her alcoholism or her cold feet about marriage.  Sarah and Jessie (Natasha Lyonne and writer/director Clea DuVall) are a lesbian couple who are starting to get bored with their relationship when Jessie starts pining for younger girls.  Finally, Jack (Ben Schwartz) is a young widower who is trying to get back into the dating scene with a sexually adventurous and free-spirited younger girl Lola (Alia Shawkat).

The irony is supposed to be that every one of these couples are in need of an intervention in one form of another.  Wow, that’s deep.  Unsurprisingly the targeted couple does not take the criticism well, and the stress also exacerbates all of the biggest problems in the other couples.

The idea of an intervention is not necessarily a cinematic one, and honestly it feels a bit old fashioned.  This is particular weird with actress Cobie Smulders here, because her long-running TV series How I Met Your Mother regularly mocked the idea of interventions, at one point even having an intervention for a character to stop them from having interventions.

But essentially what The Intervention appears to be trying to do is remake The Big Chill without quite understanding what made that classic film so good.  It was not just a bunch of out-of-touch yuppies bitching on and on about how hard life is.  There was love and humor and a sense of history in The Big Chill.

On the other hand, much of The Intervention just feels like a bunch of people continuously complaining about their lives.  In great detail.  On and on and on.  We never care enough about the characters, or understand their back-stories, or enjoy their company, enough to get a real rooting interest in what happens to them.

It’s a shame, because like I said earlier, there is some great talent both on the screen and behind the scenes.  The Intervention had the potential to be so much more than it is.  I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to actress and first-time writer/director DuVall that this is her first attempt and her talent will continue to grow.  She shows enough promise that I’m looking forward to see what she does next.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: November 29, 2016.

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