VOD film review: The Intervention
James R | On 29, Aug 2016
Director: Clea Duvall
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Clea DuVall, Cobie Smulders
Watch The Intervention online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Three couples get together to tell a fourth couple that they should get a divorce in this very familiar indie dramedy. The ensuing middle-class, mid-life crisis, as each relationship finds itself under fresh scrutiny, is far from revelatory, but Clea DuVall’s writing/directing debut is performed by such a good cast that it’s hard not to caught up in the mild scandals and milder affairs.
Melanie Lynskey is squeakily amusing as the intrusive Annie, who has the self-entitlement to match her family’s large country estate, declaring that the intervention should happen in the first place – even though her own problems with alcohol are probably more important. Cobie Smulders is quietly intense as her sister, Ruby, unhappily married to her husband, Peter (Vincent Piazza) – a pairing with enough chemistry to be able to visibly fall in and out of love with each other.
The group’s forced smiles and awkward truths inevitably worm their way out of the closet, but it’s the less inhibited performances by Alia Shawkat (as the flighty girlfriend of one of Annie’s friends) and Natasha Lyonne (the partner of Clea DuVall’s sister, Jessie) that make the jumble of feelings really engaging – an amusing subplot sees them chasing each other through the house with an entertaining burst of emotion and electricity.
The result is hardly new – a scene halfway through sees the group pass the time playing charades, which is an indicator of how old-fashioned the story feels, especially at a time when shows such as Transparent are working through similar issues of family, sexuality and identity with more nuance and originality. But there are laughs to be had here, as well as the odd moment of weight, with DuVall proving herself a sharp writer of spiky dialogue and a director able to draw sensitive turns from her ensemble.