WINE COUNTRY -- Grade A-
This Netflix charmer was made for you and me -- if you’re a middle-class middle-aged woman. If not, you still might want to stick around for a pleasant trip to Napa.
Oh, #AmyPoehler and the wonderful women of Saturday Night Live circa the early ‘00s, how well you know my sense of humor and what makes me laugh so hard I squirt a beverage out of my nose.
Wine Country hits the sweet spot for me: tons of pop-culture references, a drunk scene or two, a healthy amount of non-sequiturs and the f-word, some '90s pop music, a pinch of physical comedy and an unexpected tribute to fan-girling in general and in particular Fran Drescher. Yes, Wine Country has it all. And to top it off, it’s Amy Poehler’s first directing effort from a script by two former SNL writers, Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey. Middle-age girl power to the nth degree, and I am so very here for it.
I will put a cork in the wine wordplay -- though it kills me to do so -- to tell you about this tale of six girlfriends who take a trip to Napa for one of the women’s 50th birthdays. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and tagging along with this crew, though the story definitely could’ve used some more work -- 'cause that’s pretty much the story -- a crew of long-time gal pals go to wine country. Not much ensues.
But I love the fact that what does ensue has very little to do with men or marriage or romance. It's about long-term female friendship, which makes for a sweet, funny wish-fulfillment comedy. The movie's got a loose improvisational feel to it as well, which adds to its charm. (Way to go, first-time director Poehler!)
Each of these upper-middle-class women has their particular personality quirk to overcome, of course, and it’s a delight seeing these skilled comics bouncing off one another. And taking several dance breaks. #TinaFey even drops by, with a small role as the owner of the luxury house they’re staying in. There are a few great bits, including a face-off with a group of millennials that I was LOL'ing over (to borrow one of their phrases). Plus, there's a hilarious cameo by Cherry Jones as a cranky tarot-card reader.
All seven of the actresses are Saturday Night Live alums: Fey, Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph and Emily Spivey and Paula Pell (who were on the writing staff). And they’re all great. I mean … read that list again. This is an amazing collection of talent from the greatest female edition of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players in history.
I've been waiting for #PaulaPell to break out Melissa McCarthy-style for about a decade now. And I’m definitely glad to see her getting more on-screen work. She’s great in the NBC series AP Bio, and her storyline in Wine Country -- about a lesbian navigating a potential romance with a millennial artist (Maya Erskine) -- is one of the best things about the film.
So yeah, overall it’s kinda like "Bridesmaids Lite," or "Grown-Ups With Women Instead of Adam Sandler Et Al," but there are definitely worse things than tagging along to NorCal with these women for a brisk 90-minute vacay. It goes down that easy, with a smooth, pleasant finish. (Sorry, couldn’t resist, and the women of SNL wouldn’t have wanted me to.)