Amy Poehler’s Kinda Lame ‘Wine Country’
In these dark times, we tend to cling to whatever small shred of levity we find, wherever we can find it. At least I do. That’s why I was so looking forward to Friday night, finally donning sweatpants, gathering loved ones (Cheez-Its and wine from CVS), and laughing my middle-aged ass off at Netflix’s newest comedy offering, Wine Country, starring virtually all of my celeb imaginary BFFs.
In Wine Country, a group of longtime girlfriends (who bonded during their 20-something waitressing days) meet up in gorgeous Napa Valley to celebrate friendship, fermenting fruit, and turning 50. The comedy-goddess lineup of Saturday Night Live alums include Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudloph, Ana Gasteyer, Tina Fey and the lesser-known but genius writers, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey. Spivey co-wrote the film along with comedian Liz Cackowski, who also briefly appears.
Poehler stars, produces, and directs this, her first feature film, which is essentially a sweet love letter to her comedy gal pals. The movie is loosely based on actual girls’ trips they’ve enjoyed together over the years. It’s a fun, fly-on-the-wall peek into their enduring real-life friendships. Amy Poehler wanted to make the movie for years, because as she told Vanity Fair, “There’s just not enough films that take full advantage of what it’s like to be our age and to be around women that have known you for a really long time but aren’t competing for the same job or the same guy.” Amen, sister. Amen.
Knowing all of that going in, I wanted to love this movie. How could I not? On paper, the feel-good comedy has all the right stuff for bougie gals like me: Day drinking! Gorgeous vistas! Paella! Vibrator exchanges! Brené Brown! It seemed right up my lady alley (hey-oh!) I did laugh, but I wanted more. Much more. Many of the bits seemed inside-jokey, unfocused and meandering, never delivering the belly laughs or the feels I expected out of this brilliant crew.
All the ladies have moments to shine, but it still felt flat in many scenes. Maya Rudolph can usually make me laugh just walking into a room. She didn’t here. Even Tina Fey, who pops in and out to play an odd-but-not-quite-funny-odd Airbnb owner, doesn’t really deliver. Paula Pell, who plays brand-new-knees-Val, steals every scene she’s in, even when she has no lines. She was my favorite.
There are some snarky Millennial jokes, brilliant one-liners and fun banter sprinkled throughout. The California setting and killer 80’s soundtrack help it along. But the Jason Schwartzman character, like most men everywhere but especially in this, was unnecessary. The physical comedy ,which could have been great, goes from silly to downright dumb towards the end of the film, calling to mind a Boniva commercial spoof you might see on SNL.
It’s interesting that Poehler plays Abby, the micro-managing event planner trying to force the fun every minute of the girls’ trip, thereby ruining it. Unfortunately, much of this movie feels that same way. In the end, Wine Country looks delicious and so full of promise, but just doesn’t have the legs to give anything but a pleasant buzz.