Clea DuVall, the director and screenwriter of the film, has been around the film industry since she was young. She knows all the ins and outs. This is the first time she has taken up the triumvirate of acting, writing and directing a film. Selecting something that was probably a tough sell in that it has been done time and time again. I guess that this was an easier idea and environment was appealing to the first time director/screenwriter. Gave her a sense of security. Maybe more than the potential viewers. Though this film comes with the reassurance that it won an award at the Sundance Film Festival (acting award for Melanie Lynskey).
The idea of a group of friends getting together at an idyllic lake side property for a weekend is nothing new (see The Big Chill, etc.). An isolated environment seems to be the nod needed for the usual high drama that ensues.
A group of friends (all coupled up) are gathering at a large house for the weekend. It is not just a reunion to touch base. Rather there is a purpose. The friends are there to tell long married couple Ruby (Colbie Smuthers – from television’s How I Met Your Mother) and Peter (Vincent Piazza – from television’s Boardwalk Empire) that they should divorce. This intervention is being spearheaded by Annie (Melanie Lynskey – Heavenly Creatures, Up in the Air). Ruby’s sister Jessie (Clea DuVall – Girl, Interrupted, Argo), her girlfriend Sarah (Natasha Lyonne – from television’s Orange is the New Black) and Annie’s fiancé Matt (Jason Ritter – from television’s Parenthood) are there, but more hesitant about how and when to go about this. Final member of the group Jack (Ben Schwartz – from television’s Parks and Recreation) is totally against this intervention.
Besides the reason behind the get together each of the couples seems to have their own problems. Annie, who drinks too much, has postponed getting married to Matt four times. Jessie is hesitant about moving in with Sarah despite the fact that they have been together for three years. Jack, whose wife died a year and a half prior, is dating Lola (Alia Shawkat – from television’s Arrested Development), who is much younger than he. Each has secrets or bumps in the road that are stopping them from being happy.
Though the film is highly watchable due to the acting talent and the entertaining dialogue and situations they find themselves in, there are some flaws. I wanted to know some of the characters’ backstories. Not just to know, but to add layers to the story. Knowing where they come from, how they got to know each other and why they behave the way they do would have added plenty.
An ensemble drama like this relies largely on the skill of the actors. DuVall’s script is in capable hands here. All turn in strong performances while fleshing out their characters (as much as they can) before our eyes. The strongest of the lot is Melanie Lynskey. She shows no hesitancy about portraying this mess of a woman, who is a little ridiculous. Instead of disliking her because of all her contradictory characteristics we end up feeling sympathy for Annie. Lynskey is an actress who you should always seek out in films as she seems incapable of turning in even an ordinary performance.
What the film does do well is interject light comedic moments (that are realistic) into some highly dramatic moments. Cuts the tension and ups the enjoyability quotient. DuVall also aids that with her light tough in the editing of the film. Nothing jarring or unnatural occurs in the transition from scene to scene. The message, that you should appreciate what you have as it might disappear if you don’t, is a good one and we are not hit over the head with it.
-“Fade Out” Music Video by Tegan and Sara