Sundance 2016 - The Intervention

Sundance 2016: The Intervention Review

Clea DuVall’s The Intervention feels kind of like a horror movie, except instead of a cabin-in-the-woods you have a beautiful plantation-style estate and instead of zombies attacking you’ve got the somewhat more disturbing neuroses of a bunch of 30-somethings to haunt your evening.

An ensemble piece that owes more than a passing nod to The Big Chill, the film revolves around a group of friends that cajole a couple to the retreat in order to split up a marriage. With Melanie Lynskey as the ostensible lead cajoler the members of the group quickly find that it might not just be the couple that needs a lot of work to get their mental and emotional house in order.

The groups pair off in ways that are increasingly comic, from Clea DuVall’s surrepticious interest in younger girls, a trait shared by Ben Schwartz’s interest in Alia Shawkat. Vincent Piazza, Natasha Lyonne and Jason Ritter round out the rest of the ensemble, with emotions and plot points swirling out various farcical interactions within the closed environment.

As the film plays out it does take a pretty steady path with few surprises along the way. Still, to DuVall’s credit she keeps all the balls in the air quite well, helped out by a stellar ensemble cast. Lynskey tows a fine line between incompetent, obnoxious, and good-hearted, never swaying too far away from being understood and appreciated by the audience. It’s a tough role to play without completely coming across as a total ditz but she manages to do so quite brilliantly.


The rest of the cast is also quite believable in their various roles. Certain moments lean towards the saccharine, but they feel for the most part earned, from a snuggle on a park bench to eventual moments of reconciliation.

DuVall is smart to keep things tight, and even if several moments echo a bit too heavily her references she still manages to keep things feeling fresh. There’s clear commitment from all involved, that spark you get when a group is coming together, no doubt in huge part thanks to respect for the actor/director, and giving their all to elevate what could easily be a small, stagey situation and crafting something engaging and cinematic.

While The Big Chill was about existential reflection and the ennui of getting old, The Intervention has far more to do with the little things broken within each of us, and how a community can somehow help things get straightened out if we can just see past our own problems. It may not be overly ambitious with its tale but it’s told with conviction and charm, making for one of those quirky, small-in-scope yet big-in-heart American indies that tend to do very well with audiences.