The weekend-away-with-friends indie has become a safe testing ground for first-time feature directors: one (typically pretty) location reduces certain production stresses, while a large cast allows plenty of room to discover what works and what doesn't. In the case of actress Clea DuVall's debut as writer-director, a four-couple stew called "The Intervention," there's little in the way of relationship mishigas you haven't seen before. But as an unfussy, dryly amusing and sincere look at men and women pondering emotional pivots in their lives, it's plenty likable.
Bickering three-child parents Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza) don't know it yet, but the friends they're sharing a getaway with — perennially engaged couple Annie (Melanie Lynskey) and Matt (Jason Ritter), jealousy-tinged twosome Sarah (Natasha Lyonne) and Jessie (DuVall), and widower Jack (Ben Schwartz), sporting new young girlfriend Lola (Alia Shawkat) — plan to tell them their marriage is over and they should get divorced.
The mirror gets shown to everyone, of course, and while the outcomes are woefully predictable based on each character's thumbnail sketch, DuVall shows a welcome light touch with tone, easing back and forth between humor and neurosis and never treating her material as the last word on relationships.
There's not a bad performance in the bunch, either, but the standouts are Lynskey, a fizzy combo of nosy and tipsy, and Smulders, who's got a magnetic, prickly simmer.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Rating: R, for language including sexual references