Netflix's Wine Country, from director Amy Poehler, is a feel-good comedy about the power of friendship with a stellar ensemble cast of funny ladies.
In recent years, Netflix has majorly upped its output of original movies, and expanded their variety, venturing into Oscar fare while additionally releasing romantic comedies and animated children's movies. Netflix's latest original movie is the comedy Wine Country, following a group of six middle-aged women celebrating the 50th birthday of their friend by taking a weekend getaway to Napa, California. With a good script and a cast filled with recognizable comedians, Wine Country is poised to be a solid hit for the streamer. Netflix's Wine Country, from director Amy Poehler, is a feel-good comedy about the power of friendship with a stellar ensemble cast of funny ladies.
Wine Country follows a group of friends who have been tight since serving pizza together at a local parlor in Chicago when they were 20. There's hyper-organized Abby (Poehler) who creates detailed itineraries for their trip, Naomi (Maya Rudolph) who wants the group to have a good time and focus on each other, Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) who isn't quite ready to turn 50, the high-powered business owner Catherine (Ana Gasteyer) who spends much of the trip on her phone, the extroverted Val (Paula Pell) who pines for a young waitress they meet on their first night, and the reluctant Jenny (Emily Spivey) who's unsure about the whole trip. Throughout the weekend, the ladies meet colorful characters, including the peculiar owner of the property where they're staying, Tammy (Tina Fey), and Devon (Jason Schwartzman), a kind of butler that comes with the house. But though the old friends are all excited to see each other, old and new issues arise that threaten both the weekend and their long-standing friendship.
With a script by Saturday Night Live writers Spivey and Liz Cackowski, Wine Country marks the feature-length directorial debut of fellow alum Poehler, who's previously helmed episodes of Parks and Recreation and Broad City. Wine Country is a veritable who's who of female SNL alums, featuring former castmates Poehler, Rudolph, Fey, Gasteyer and Dratch along with former writers Pell, Spivey and Cackowski (who additionally appears in the movie as a frustrated sommelier). Spivey and Cackowski's script for Wine Country is solid enough, playing to each star's strengths, though Fey's Tammy is a little out of place, coming off as an SNL character dropped into this more realistic film. But on the whole, Wine Country focuses on developing the friendship and arcs of the six main characters, so that they're the core heart of the movie.
Without the talent of the cast in Wine Country, it wouldn't work nearly as well as it does. Perhaps because all these women came up together as comedians and are friends in real life, their onscreen friendship comes across as entirely genuine, making Wine Country an even more authentic comedy. It's an honest look at female friendship, depicting the incredible intimacy of having such close friends, and the arguments that arise when personalities clash, especially in such close proximity as a whole weekend together. For this reason, Wine Country is a fantastic watch for a pair or group of female friends as there will no doubt be moments that are entirely, perhaps even unbearably, relatable. It's clear Wine Country was written, directed and acted by a group of close friends; that authenticity from Poehler and the rest elevates what could have been a fairly rudimentary comedy in the hands of others.
Like many Netflix original movies, Wine Country probably could have benefitted from being tightened up a bit. The pacing drags in certain sequences, while some of the jokes and humorous moments don't land quite as well as the majority of the movie. Still, it's an incredibly solid comedy and is no doubt as strong as it is because of the talent and experience of those behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. It also takes a step toward filling a void in the comedy genre where there are so many movies about men struggling to come to terms with being middle age, but very few about women going through the same evolution. The movie perhaps could have been improved, but it's plenty strong on its own.
Ultimately, Wine Country is a nice, light, fun and funny feel-good comedy about a group of female friends that's perfect for fans of any or all of the funny ladies who helped bring the movie to life. It's a solid directorial debut for Poehler, it's well written by Spivey and Cackowski, and it's well acted by Poehler, Rudolph, Dratch, Gasteyer, Pell, Spivey and Fey. The movie is an altogether fantastic addition to Netflix's originals library, providing a good female-fronted comedy. Wine Country is an entertaining reprieve from life that can be enjoyed alone or with friends.
Wine Country is now playing in limited theatrical release and streaming on Netflix. It is 103 minutes long and is rated R for crude sexual content, language and some drug material.
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