Clea DuVall’s Intervention Features Friends Way More Dysfunctional Than Yours

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images.
Everything about The Intervention feels lived-in. The movie's many friendships and relationships produce conversations that toe the line between kind and cutting, making for a familiar kind of freneticism. Clea DuVall, who wrote, directed, and plays a supporting role in the film, told Refinery29 that this is a story she's been thinking about for a long time — and it shows. The movie is like being invited to sit around the dinner table with a group of old friends and observe their mania firsthand. Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza) are married, but their relationship has soured into constant bickering. Jack (Ben Schwartz) is dating Lola (Alia Shawkat), a girl in her early 20s. It's obvious that Sarah (Natasha Lyonne) and Jessie (DuVall) are in love, but that Jessie is weird about commitment. Even though Matt (Jason Ritter) and Annie (Melanie Lynskey) have been engaged for a while, they shrug off questions about when they'll set a wedding date. Everyone has converged at a stunning mansion in Savannah, GA, for an intervention: Ruby and Peter must get a divorce. Annie (Lynskey) exists at the eye of the hurricane, as the friend too overly concerned with others' problems. "I thought, What if there was a story about someone who is so convinced that they knew what was right for everybody else? And they actually tried to put one of their plans in action?" DuVall said. "That idea would be so ridiculous, because you don’t really ever know what is going on in someone else’s life." DuVall, who also stars on HBO's Veep, spoke to Refinery29 about relationships both silly and serious, and why they fascinate her.
Why did you choose to tell this story?
“I really love relationships. I love talking about them, I love being in them, I love it when they’re amazing I love it when they’re hard and you work through things. I think they are fascinating.
"I was someone who always thought I knew what was best for everybody else in my life, and I had to then have this lightning bolt of self-awareness. I realized that I was spending so much time focusing on everybody else because there were a lot of things in my own life that I didn’t want to confront. That sent me onto this path of doing the work on myself that I hadn’t done. "The Melanie Lynskey character just sort of came to me, and Melanie is my best friend and I wrote it for her, and I thought that she would just be so good in that role. She really just inspired me because I think that she is the best actress of our generation.”
Is Lynskey's character the one you identify with most, personally?
“I wrote the part of Jesse for myself thinking that was the character I was most like, and then Melanie was the one who called me out and she was like, ‘No, you’re such an Annie.’ It wasn’t until we were at Sundance watching the movie and I turned to her and I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess I am an Annie.’ I mean, I’m better — I stay out of people’s lives — but that character is an exaggerated version of that time in my life, for sure.”
Photo: George Pimentel/Getty Images.
Pictured: Melanie Lynskey and Clea DuVall at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival
I was so struck by how all the relationships in this movie feel so fully realized. What was it like writing and directing this, fleshing out different relationship dynamics in that way?
“I’ve had a lot of relationships in my life and I’m in my late 30s. I kind of used all the different relationships I’ve been in, my own experiences. I just try to make [the actors] think through each character and their backstory and why they’re in the relationship that they are in and what they’re struggling to accept. "Doing that made [the characters] feel very real to me, and I was able to create arcs for them that felt organic and authentic. On set, we shot with two cameras all the time. I wanted to always have a camera on all the people who weren’t speaking, because I think that you learn as much about a person or a situation by what people are not saying as you do by what people are saying." What was it like writing the comedy in this movie, but also treating issues of marriage and addiction with seriousness?
“We are all kind of silly people, but who also have a very serious side. That’s how we all interact. We can have a very difficult conversation and weave humor into it. It was through the writing, performances, and editing that you don’t want it to feel too heavy, because it is excruciating.

I was spending so much time focusing on everybody else because there were a lot of things in my own life that I didn’t want to confront.

Clea DuVall
"We all know what it’s like to be in that four-hour conversation that is just in a loop, and you just feel like you’re in the twilight zone and you feel like it’s never going to end and you feel like you’re never going to feel happy again. I don’t want to put the audience through that. Being able to laugh helps people feel better about the challenges of relationships, so it was really important to me to allow the humor to come through.” Can you talk about cultivating a cast that became a very believable group of friends on screen?
“Natasha, Melanie, Jason, and Alia are all my friends. Cobie and Vincent and Ben, each of them had a connection to someone else in the cast. I knew from several different people that the three of them were wonderful and down to have the kind of rough-and-tumble, independent-filmmaking experience. Part of it was making good choices, and part of it was just getting lucky.” This was your first big directorial effort. Was it more or less difficult that you were directing so many close friends of yours?
"I think directing a movie is challenging no matter who’s in it or what the budget is or how much time you have. Whether it’s Cobie broke her leg two days before her first day of shooting, or our power would go out and we would have thunderstorms that would last three hours in the middle of the day... There are so many unpredictable things all the time. Having the comfort of these people who I knew really loved me very much was really nice.”
Can you talk about the house that’s in the movie? It feels like a very central character, this beautiful mansion.
“It's in Savannah. I had been there once a very long time ago, and it really stuck with me. I wrote [the movie] to take place in that house not knowing if we would be able to get access to it, and again it was a situation where we really just got lucky and were able to do that.” Sara Quin composed the score, but the soundtrack is also really well done. How important was the music in the film for you?
"I decided early on that I wanted to have all female vocalists on the soundtrack. My music supervisor just would send me these lists of people, he would make these Spotify playlists. I think came up with a great soundtrack, I love the music in it so much.”
This summer, we're celebrating the biggest movie season of the year with a new series called Blockbust-HER. We'll be looking at everything film-related from the female perspective, interviewing major players in the industry and discussing where Hollywood is doing right by women and where (all too often) it is failing them. And now...let's go to the movies!

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