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Dustin Putman

2016 Sundance Film Festival
The Intervention  (2016)
2½ Stars
Directed by Clea DuVall.
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Clea DuVall, Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Vincent Piazza, Alia Shawkat.
2016 – 89 minutes
Not Yet Rated
Reviewed at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival by Dustin Putman for, January 27, 2016.
There is little chance "The Intervention" would exist in its current permutation were it not for the existence of Lawrence Kasdan's 1983 Baby-Boomer classic "The Big Chill." If one can overcome this unavoidable comparison, there is a lot here to enjoy, beginning with its top-to-bottom excellent cast and extending to Clea DuVall (2012's "Argo"), making her comfy writing-directing debut. DuVall has a gift for quick barbs, spry interactions and pop-culture references, but also ensures all her characters are human. Some are better-developed and given more to do than others, but the actors seamlessly function as a unit. Without them, the film would not have worked as well as it frequently does.

Annie (Melanie Lynskey) and long-time fiancé Matt (Jason Ritter) have traveled to Savannah for a weekend with friends at Jessie's (Clea DuVall) family's lakeside mansion. Also in attendance: Jessie's girlfriend of three years, Sarah (Natasha Lyonne); recently single Jack (Ben Schwartz) and his free-spirited, much-younger girlfriend Lola (Alia Shawkat), and Jessie's sister, Ruby (Cobie Smulders), and her husband Peter (Vincent Piazza). Ruby and Peter, parents of three who have lost their spark and are clearly miserable, have no idea the rest of the group are planning a marriage intervention. As it turns out, they aren't the only ones who are in desperate need of a reality check.

"The Intervention" is a true ensemble picture where everyone gets their moment in the spotlight. It is Melanie Lynskey (2012's "Hello I Must Be Going"), however, as the child-averse, borderline-alcoholic Annie, who steals the film and has the most complete, emotionally resounding arc. Lynskey has the ability to earn big laughs with nothing more than a facial expression, but there is also a depth to her that keeps her from becoming a caricature. The rest of the performances are without fault, as well, and it's nice to see DuVall in a sizable role again (one that she wrote herself, to boot). There is nothing earthshakingly original about "The Intervention"—most of the themes and personal conflicts are old-hat—but they are cleanly and astutely written. The one missed opportunity: giving DuVall's Jessie and Cobie Smulders' (2015's "Results") Ruby a more apparent bond; they are supposed to be siblings, but this point is easily forgotten as the story plays out. "The Intervention" is a minor character dramedy in the grand scheme, but it is sensitive and good-humored, if a hair too tidy. DuVall's inaugural directorial effort is one she should be proud of.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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