The Intervention (film)

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The Intervention
The Intervention (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClea DuVall
Written byClea DuVall
Produced by
CinematographyPolly Morgan
Edited byTamara Meem
Music bySara Quin
Burn Later Productions
Distributed by
Release date
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$32,919[2]

The Intervention is a 2016 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Clea DuVall in her directorial debut. The film stars DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Natasha Lyonne, Vincent Piazza, Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat and Cobie Smulders. The Intervention had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2016. It was released in a limited release and through video on demand on August 26, 2016, by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Paramount Pictures.


A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an "intervention" on their marriage.


  • Clea DuVall as Jessie; an independent-minded career woman and the girlfriend of Sarah. DuVall wrote the character of Jessie with the intention of playing the role herself, although she said after the film's release that she would not cast herself again in a film she was directing due to the stress of directing and acting at the same time. Being an open lesbian herself, Duvall wrote Jessie as gay because she wanted to normalize gay relationships and feature "a gay couple in a movie where it's not about them being gay".[3]
  • Melanie Lynskey as Annie; a neurotic, insecure and alcoholic woman who is the mastermind of the "marriage intervention" and Matt's fiancée. DuVall wrote The Intervention for Lynskey, who is a close friend of hers. She wrote the role of Annie with Lynskey in mind, and Lynskey read DuVall's drafts of the screenplay as she wrote it. Lynskey had three therapy sessions before the film went into production to prepare herself for working with her friend and communicating with each other professionally as actor and director.[4] She said afterwards, "I didn't want anything to happen to our friendship and a big challenge was being able to stick up for myself and my perspective in regard to the script and this character."[3]
  • Alia Shawkat as Lola; a free-spirited hippy-type woman and girlfriend of Jack. Shawkat was also a longtime friend of DuVall's.[4] She was the second actor to be cast, after Lynskey.[5]
  • Cobie Smulders as Ruby; the long-suffering wife of the career-minded Peter. Smulders broke her leg shortly before filming was scheduled to begin. Instead of replacing her or choosing camera angles that would hide her injury, DuVall chose to include it in the story. Smulders felt that it "added more vulnerability" to her character and DuVall later described it as "one of [her] favorite things about the movie".[4]
  • Natasha Lyonne as Sarah; Jessie's girlfriend. Lyonne, DuVall and Lynskey had been close friends since appearing together in the 1999 comedy But I'm a Cheerleader.[4] DuVall felt that their history of playing lovers in But I'm a Cheerleader, as well as their real-life friendship, "really lent itself to be able to play girlfriends in a way that felt authentic".[6]
  • Jason Ritter as Matt; Annie's fiancée. Ritter is Lynskey's real-life partner.[4] DuVall cast him as Matt because she had difficulty writing the part and trusted that he could "make it feel like a complete character".[5]
  • Ben Schwartz as Jack; a free-spirited hippy type whose wife Mary, died a year and a half ago. He is dating 22 year old Lola with the hopes of something more serious.
  • Vincent Piazza as Peter; a workaholic businessman and Ruby's husband. DuVall described Piazza as "one of the sweetest guys I've ever met in my entire life" and said that because of his nature, "there were times [during filming] he would be too nice, and I would have to convince him to be an asshole."[7]


DuVall started writing The Intervention in 2012.[8] The idea for a story based around a marital intervention came partly from DuVall's own life; she said that she was too judgmental of her friends' lives and reluctant to face her own problems. She did not initially intend to direct the script she had written for The Intervention, but changed her mind while trying to find another director.[6] The film was produced by Sam Slater and Paul Bernon of Burn Later Productions, along with Sev Ohanian.[9] Bernon and Slater became involved after asking DuVall's agency if they had any film projects in need of financing, and Ohanian was brought to the project by Mel Eslyn, who served as an executive producer.[5] DuVall said that the process of finding investors was fast and relatively easy, which she attributed to the film's very low budget.[7] The film's financing was secured six months after DuVall had finished writing the script, and filming began three months later.[10] Four members of the main cast (Lynskey, Lyonne, Ritter and Shawkat) were friends of DuVall's, while the other three (Smulders, Piazza and Schwartz) were cast through "a connection to someone else in the cast".[11]

The film was shot in Savannah, Georgia, over the course of 18 days in the summer of 2015. It was filmed in particularly hot weather, which caused the cinematographer, Polly Morgan, to develop heat stroke.[12] The house where the majority of filming took place repeatedly lost power, leaving the cast and crew without air conditioning and running water on set. DuVall later said that the heat and the problems it caused "probably helped add tension to the scenes".[7] Each scene was shot with two cameras simultaneously, with one focused on the speaking character and the other focused on those who were not speaking.[11] The filmmakers chose not to have playback monitors on set in order to save time and money; DuVall said that this made it difficult to act and direct at the same time since she was unable to watch scenes that required her to be in front of the camera.[3]

The film was scored by Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara, making her debut as a film composer.[13] DuVall had collaborated with Tegan and Sara several times before as a director of their music videos. She wanted Quin to create a "non-traditional" film score,[7] saying, "A big reason why I wanted to work with Sara on the score is because she hasn't done it before. I wanted something that didn't sound like the scores I am used to hearing."[14] Tegan and Sara also wrote and performed a song for the film, titled "Fade Out". When DuVall approached her about The Intervention, Sara Quin had already written a rough version of the song; she rewrote some of the lyrics to fit with the film.[14] DuVall chose to only feature songs with female vocalists on the film's soundtrack.[11]


The Intervention had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2016,[15] where Lynskey received a Special Jury Award for Individual Performance.[16] Two days after the premiere, it was announced that Paramount Pictures had acquired worldwide distribution rights for around $2.5 million.[15] The film screened at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 28, 2016,[17] and served as the opening night film for Outfest on July 7, 2016.[18] It was released in a limited release in theaters and on video on demand through iTunes on August 26, 2016.[19] Its theatrical run lasted for a single week; it grossed $32,919 from 17 theaters.[2]


The Intervention received mostly positive reviews from critics. It currently holds an 78% "Certified Fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 6.41/10. The website's critical consensus states, "The Intervention's familiar plot is enlivened by complex character dynamics and a likable cast."[20] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 57 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[21]

Dennis Harvey of Variety gave the film a positive review, writing, "Clea DuVall's debut as writer-director breaks no new ground in themes or execution, but is pleasingly accomplished on all levels."[22] IndieWire's Kate Erbland gave the film a B+ rating, describing it as "a sharp-tongued and smart observational comedy" and praising DuVall's "crisp and smart" direction.[23] Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times found the film "unfussy, dryly amusing and sincere", and praised the performances of Lynskey and Smulders.[24] Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times called the film "confident and accomplished" and compared it favorably to The Big Chill.[25] In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Kevin P. Sullivan gave the film a B rating, writing, "The script wobbles between heavy-handed and touching, but the result is a pleasantly nostalgic throwback that's saved from its copy-cat tendencies by charismatic actors."[26]

On the other hand, The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy found the film "bland and without consequence" and opined that DuVall ought to have brought on a co-writer to "create more distinctive characters and dialogue".[27] Nigel M. Smith of The Guardian gave the film 2 out of 5 stars, criticizing DuVall's "misjudgment of tone" in writing it as a comedy rather than fully exploring the "messed up" characters.[28] Writing for Slant Magazine, Diego Semerene called the film's premise unoriginal and formulaic, ultimately describing it as "intolerable".[29]


  1. ^ Arthur, Kate (November 11, 2020). "How Clea DuVall's Lesbian Christmas Movie, Starring Kristen Stewart, Radicalizes a Conventional Genre". Variety. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "The Intervention". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Lombardi, Chris (August 22, 2016). "The 'Intervention' Interview: Clea DuVall and Melanie Lynskey Tell-All". Film Independent. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Olsen, Mark (August 18, 2016). "Why Clea DuVall cast Melanie Lynskey and other pals in her directorial debut 'The Intervention'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Joyaux, Daniel (August 26, 2016). "Staging The Intervention: Writer-Director Clea DuVall Confronts Her Debut Feature, With Melanie Lynskey". MovieMaker. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Sandberg, Patrik (May 16, 2016). "Stars of Sundance: Clea DuVall". V. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Tedder, Michael (August 26, 2016). "The Internet Is Obsessed With Clea DuVall and She Had No Idea". Esquire. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  8. ^ Horowitz, Steven J. (August 12, 2016). "Clea DuVall Reunites with Natasha Lyonne in Directorial Debut, The Intervention". Out. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  9. ^ McNary, Dave (July 20, 2015). "Clea DuVall Making Directorial Debut With Film Starring Cobie Smulders, Melanie Lynskey". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Dunaway, Michael (December 10, 2016). "Clea DuVall talks The Intervention". Paste. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Harris, Hunter (August 26, 2016). "Clea DuVall's Intervention Features Friends Way More Dysfunctional Than Yours". Refinery29. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Farmer, Jim (August 25, 2016). "Preview: Savannah helps Clea DuVall evoke "The Big Chill" in "The Intervention"". ArtsATL. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  13. ^ Shoukri, Tarek (December 10, 2015). "Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara to Compose Film Score for Sundance Premiere 'The Intervention'". IndieWire. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Grow, Kory (August 22, 2016). "Hear Tegan and Sara's Bittersweet New Relationship Song 'Fade Out'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 28, 2016). "Paramount Acquires 'The Intervention' In $2.5 Million+ WW Rights Deal". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  16. ^ Chang, Justin (January 30, 2016). "Sundance: 'The Birth of a Nation' Sweeps Top Prizes". Variety. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Intervention". Seattle International Film Festival. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (June 9, 2016). "Clea Duvall's 'The Intervention' to Open Outfest Los Angeles". Variety. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  19. ^ Yoo, Noah (July 5, 2016). "Hear a New Tegan and Sara Song in The Intervention Trailer". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  20. ^ "The Intervention (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  21. ^ "The Intervention Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  22. ^ Harvey, Dennis (January 26, 2016). "Sundance Film Review: 'The Intervention'". Variety. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  23. ^ Erbland, Kate (January 29, 2016). "Sundance Review: Clea DuVall's 'The Intervention' Starring Melanie Lynskey, Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne, More". IndieWire. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  24. ^ Abele, Robert (August 25, 2016). "Plenty to recommend in ensemble indie 'The Intervention'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  25. ^ Macdonald, Moira (August 25, 2016). "'The Intervention' review: 'The Big Chill' for a new generation". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  26. ^ Sullivan, Kevin P. (August 26, 2016). "'The Intervention': EW review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  27. ^ "'The Intervention': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. January 26, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  28. ^ Smith, Nigel M. (January 27, 2016). "The Intervention review - relationship drama descends into actors' showcase". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  29. ^ Semerene, Diego (August 23, 2016). "The Intervention". Slant Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2017.

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