‘The Intervention’ Review: Couples Retreating | Sundance 2016

     January 28, 2016


Romantic relationships are beautiful and, like most things that are worth a damn, they can be hard work. But what happens when it’s time to figure out how a relationship will evolve? It’s heavy material, but writer-director Clea Duvall handles it with a deft touch in her feature debut, The Intervention. The small-scale dramedy skillfully examines four relationships in various stages, and with a charming mix of humor and pathos, the film shows how these eight characters must confront the stresses in their relationships.

Annie (Melanie Lynskey) wants to have a marriage intervention for her friends Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Pete (Vincent Piazza) because the couple is constantly at each other’s throats. Annie has recruited her fiancée Matt (Jason Ritter), Ruby’s sister Jessie (DuVall), her girlfriend Sarah (Natasha Lyonne), and Pete’s friend Jack (Ben Schwartz), who has brought his new girlfriend Lola (Alia Shawkat), to try and break up the couple. While they reluctantly acquiesce, over the course of the weekend, each couple realizes they have their own problems they need to face.


Image via Sundance

Each couple in The Intervention represents a phase in the life of a couple. Jack and Lola are in puppy love, and they’re unburdened with thoughts about the future. Jessie and Sarah have been together for three years, but Jessie still doesn’t feel ready to move in together. Annie and Matt are engaged, but Annie has pushed back the wedding date four times. And Ruby and Pete are at each other’s throats, clearly on the verge of a divorce they may have reached without the urging of their friends at an idyllic summer home on the outskirts of Savannah.

The gorgeous home provides a nice contrast to the brewing hostility underneath its roof, and while comparisons to The Big Chill are inevitable, that doesn’t diminish the power of the performances or the depth of the conflicts. The Intervention is a movie that can have you laughing, especially thanks to Lynskey’s expert comic timing, just as easily as it can have you covering your eyes as a couple’s relationship comes to the breaking point.


Image via Sundance

What’s most admirable about The Invention is how DuVall, in only her first feature, clearly delineates that being in love doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. On the contrary, love is a complex relationship where you can love someone and still not get everything you want from that person. The question then becomes about (to paraphrase the famous philosophers Jagger and Richards) will you get what you need? Watching these eight characters grapple with how badly they need their significant other makes The Intervention a solidly, consistently captivating film where love doesn’t conquer all.

Rating: B

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