With a cast that includes writer/director Clea Duvall, Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, and Natasha Lyonne, chances are you already know the kind of film “The Intervention” is. It’s, of course, a rather small-scale comedy with a solid cast of indie regulars, but that doesn’t mean the film should be slept on. For a debut feature, Duvall shows a confident hand guiding the joys and sorrows of a group of couples who also happen to be very old friends.
Also starring Alia Shawkat, Cobie Smulders, Vincent Piazza, and Ben Schwartz the riotously funny “The Intervention” might as well have been titled “The Breakup” because that’s what the ultimate goal for these friends is. Lynskey gives one of her finest, most neurotic performances ever as Annie, who has determined an intervention is needed to convince her friends Ruby (Smulders) and Pete (Piazza) to get a divorce because they’ve been miserable for years. So she enlists the help of fiancee Matt (Ritter) Ruby’s lesbian sister Jessie (DuVall), her girlfriend Sarah (Lyonne), and Pete’s best friend Jack (Schwartz), whoi is joined by his frisky girlfriend, Lola (Shawkat). Over the course of two days at a gorgeous, idyllic estate, the gang come to realize that their own respective relationships are screwed up enough that maybe they shouldn’t be casting stones.
The setup is kind of ridiculous; what kind of friend would do such a thing, right? But then you meet Annie, whose alcoholism fuels her already-controlling behavior, and you suddenly get it. She steamrolls Matt at every turn, including about the date of their wedding which she keeps pushing back. Meanwhile, Jessie and Sarah’s relationship has gone stale, while Jack seems to be compensating for something by dating the younger Lola.
All together under that roof, their various insecurities bubble forth to the top. Much of the humor comes from Annie’s drinking, and refusal to see that she has a problem. The first night is led by a game of charades which, shockingly, shows that Ruby and Pete still have a certain chemistry despite their marital woes. The next day is followed by a not-so-friendly game of kickball which puts a halt to any progress the couple might have made. Meanwhile, Lola stirs up sexual tension between Jessie and Sarah, which then causes problems with Jack; and basically the weekend’s plans begin to tumble like a row of dominos.
It’s inevitable that “The Big Chill” would be a reference point for such a reunion comedy, and Duvall doesn’t do much to separate the film from such comparisons. Nor are the lessons learned here, that being in a relationship is tough and goes through many different phases, anything that can’t be found in any of a number of films that come out every year…many of which feature these same actors. But Duvall finds inspiration in her cast’s adept comic timing, with each hitting on just the right notes throughout. There are some sweet and not-so-sweet scenes that Duvall plays out perfectly, both in front of the camera and behind it. “The Intervention” is, in a way, like finding that perfect significant other who makes you laugh, dries your tears, and makes you feel comfortable when they are around.