Everybody has their own set of quirks and faults that can make it difficult to confront somebody when they believe they have a problem. “Wait, you’re gonna tell me I have a problem?” is typically the way these things go down because none of us a free from our faults. Therein lies the central premise of The Intervention, the writing-directing debut of the venerable actress Clea DuVall. While The Intervention doesn’t really do anything too bold or original, it’s a briskly entertaining little movie that is almost single handedly carried by an astounding performance by Melanie Lynskey.
The Intervention tells the story of four couples on a getaway to the American South, staying in a massive old home where they used to spend time together in the past. Annie (Lynskey) and Matt (Jason Ritter) are a couple that’ve been together for years, though Annie keeps pushing back their wedding date. They’re joined by Sarah (Natasha Lyonne) and Jessie (DuVall), a lesbian couple with their own set of relationship issues, and Jack (Ben Schwartz) and Lola (Alia Shawkat), who have just started dating and are in the hot and heavy phase of their young relationship. All of these friends have agreed to meet to stage an intervention for Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza), whose marriage has turned cold and bitter. Old demons and shortcomings will be exchanged amidst the drinks and barbeque going on over this dramatic weekend.
One thing that really holds back DuVall’s film is just that it’s overflowing with these flawed characters, and as a result few of them are given the proper levels of attention for their story arcs to be effective. The Intervention hinges on the toxic relationship between Ruby and Peter, and we’re given ample introduction to the cruel bickering they engage in before they’re confronted by their friends. Beyond their bickering, there’s little depth to nature of their dissatisfaction with one another aside from the fact they’ve been together so long. With running time just under 90 minutes, it’s hard for any filmmaker to give much dramatic weight to all four couples’ relationship issues, though it certainly tries for all of them.
The other relationship issues that these characters have to contend with range from issues of jealousy between Sarah and Jessie when it’s revealed that Jessie has kissed Lola. This sparks a whole new debate between the two as to the nature of their relationship considering they’ve been together for three years and don’t live together. The issue facing Jack stems from the fact he’s entered into a relationship with the young art student Lola, and it’s his first relationship since the untimely passing of his wife. Meanwhile, Annie and Matt have to deal with Annie’s propensity towards alcoholic consumption as well as the fact that she is consistently getting cold feet when facing their impending wedding. There’s just too much going on with too little time for any of these moments to have full impact they’re intended to have.
For a debut feature, The Intervention is an entirely passable piece of filmmaking that is elevated by one stellar performance. Clea DuVall’s movie is just trying to cram too much into its small package that some of its most powerful moments get smushed into near oblivion. For all of its flaws, The Intervention does have a talented cast doing solid work, and that one amazing performance by Melanie Lynskey. With just so many flawed characters in a 90 minute movie, it is only fitting that The Intervention is just as flawed.