The stars of Wine Country all worked together in the long running sketch show Saturday Night Live.
Culture Movies

Review: ‘Wine Country’ is no ‘Bridesmaids’ but it might be the drink you need in these uncertain times

It’s also no Sideways, but how Amy Poehler captures friendship and intimacy is what keeps this comedy about middle-age woes worth watching. 
Andrew Paredes | May 17 2019

Directed by Amy Poehler

Starring Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch

While psychoanalyst Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) takes pains throughout Wine Country to say that it wasn’t her idea to celebrate her 50th birthday via a weekend in Napa, it’s hard to argue that the idea isn’t genius. The getaway seems tailor-made both for the group of female friends in the movie, each confronting a problematic facet of middle life, and for Netflix itself, wooing a well-off segment of its subscriber base with the idea of a chill night drenched in laughs and copious amounts of alcohol. 

Amy Poehler also starts in her Netflix directorial debut. Photograph from Netflix


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Wine Country is no Sideways. The six longtime friends at the center of Wine Country’s women-behaving-badly premise are too preoccupied with their own neuroses to appreciate the differences between Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. A quick roll call: There’s birthday celebrant Rebecca (Rachel Dratch), who strenuously cultivates a zen outlook despite growing indications that she’s married to a jerk; Abby (Amy Poehler), who substitutes the terror of unemployment for almost-OCD levels of planning; Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), who feels left out because of an addiction to work and her cellphone; Naomi (Maya Rudolph), whose manic riffs mask a health scare; Val (Paula Pell), a lesbian seeking to get her groove back after life-enhancing knee surgery; and Jenny (Emily Spivey), who isn’t really sure she wants to be there anyway. Douse middle-age agitas in liberal doses of liquor, watch comedy ensue.

Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph play middle-aged women who take a trip to Napa. Photograph from Netflix

These are all characters you’ve seen before, done revolutionary in Bridesmaids and done raunchier in Girls’ Trip. The only character with much zing in her is Tina Fey’s Tammy, the owner of the gorgeous estate the girls rent for the weekend, who speaks without a filter and seems engineered to zap the movie out of any alcohol-induced stupor. But what Amy Poehler manages to achieve in her directorial debut is capturing the sweetness and easygoing intimacy of long-standing friendships. These actresses first connected by working together in the comedic hothouse environment of Saturday Night Live in the early aughts (Pell and Spivey were writers), and their longtime camaraderie naturally translates into their performances. It’s also gratifying to see the often underused Rachel Dratch given a full lead character, instead of being employed as an intermittent stealth bomb (Tina Fey fills that role here). Wine Country is safe, harmless, and—in these times of uncertainty and easily provoked agitation—positively refreshing.

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Wine Country is currently streaming on Netflix.