Movies are very good at showing the nuanced, complex relationships that exist between friends, as the 1983 classic The Big Chill demonstrated. That film, which was directed by Star Wars and Indiana Jones scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan, brought a group of thirty-somethings together after the suicide of a friend; past truths were revealed and relationships reassessed in the light of the tragedy.
Thirty-three years later, actress Clea DuVall’s directorial debut The Intervention takes a similar tack, although this time a gentle humour is more to the fore, and the dramatic scenes are much lighter in tone.
The story concerns a group of friends who converge on a country house intent on forcing a couple to talk about – and then end – their unhappy marriage. The main orchestrators of the gathering are Annie (Melanie Lynskey; Togetherness), who likes to drink, and Jessie (DuVall), who’s worried about her relationship with her cheerful girlfriend, Sarah (Natasha Lyonne; Orange Is the New Black).
But the argumentative couple don’t take kindly to their friends’ attempts to get them to talk it over, and the focus soon shifts to the personal lives of others in the group. We learn that problems aren’t always noticeable, and that even among close friends, things aren’t always what they seem.
DuVall, who’s known for her appearances on television and for the CIA rescue movie Argo (2012), says she was inspired to write and direct her own film because she was intrigued by the prospect of creating a whole world. The script for the ensemble piece is meticulously crafted, and DuVall says that the cast fell into place very quickly.
The Intervention, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, was mainly written for co-star and friend Lynskey, whose character is slightly more prominent that the rest. The music is by Sara Quin of Canadian duo Tegan and Sara, who has said she enjoyed the discipline of writing to images.
Viewers of the film will also take away an accurate reading of the hopes and fears of relatively affluent thirty-somethings in the United States. It’s interesting to note how the introspection of, say, Woody Allen’s characters has morphed into self-obsession – DuVall cleverly represents this by setting the characters in a hermetically sealed location that has no contact with the outside world.
The film also highlights the new conservatism of the let’s-talk-about-it set, with the most outrageous happenings being a bodged illicit kiss, and a decision not to get married.
The Intervention will be screened on September 25 and 30 at The Metroplex, in Kowloon Bay, as part of the Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong. Clea DuVall will attend a Q&A session after the screening on September 25.