Movie review: Longtime friends confront a couple about their unhappy marriage in this ode to friendship that’s reminiscent of the 1980s classic. Rating: 3-and-a-half stars out of 4.

Share story

Clea DuVall’s skillful ensemble drama “The Intervention” makes you think, pleasantly, of a new-generation “The Big Chill.” It takes place over a weekend, in an enormous old South Carolina house; its characters are seven longtime friends in their mid- to late 30s and one observer a generation younger; and the weekend ends with some strengthened bonds and new realizations about each other.

But these friends haven’t gathered to mourn someone and play Motown tunes. Two of them, married couple Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza), think it’s just a holiday weekend, but for the rest of them, it’s something else: an intervention, led by Annie (Melanie Lynskey), into Ruby and Peter’s seemingly unhappy marriage. Things go about as smoothly as such well-intentioned meddling usually does (“They think you should get divorced,” says one guest flatly), and soon everyone is drinking too much (especially Annie) — and saying too much.

This is Duvall’s debut as a writer/director; she’s better known as an actor in films and television, most recently as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Secret Service double in “Veep.” And yet “The Intervention” feels confident and accomplished: The cast immediately seems to bond as a group, with each playing a distinctive, recognizable character. And as the camera becomes a discreet ninth guest, you quickly find that you care about these people. Lynskey, in particular, gives Annie a desperate, bossy sweetness (“Lola,” she tells the scantily clad newcomer, “you need to put on, like, a whole shirt”). You can see, even when she’s being impossible, why her friends have stuck by her.

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘The Intervention,’ with Cobie Smulders, Vincent Piazza, Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat, Clea DuVall. Written and directed by DuVall. 90 minutes. Rated R for language, including sexual references. Sundance (21+).

Ultimately, like “The Big Chill,” “The Intervention” is an ode to friendship: to those who knew us in our youth, at our best and at our worst, and still love us.

Most Read Entertainment Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.