Courtesy of Netflix
A group of middle aged woman get together to celebrate their friends 50th birthday in the latest “Bridesmaids” meets “Bad Moms” genre of comedy in “Wine Country.” Serving as both director and lead star, comedic and SNL veteran Amy Poehler is Abby, an uptight, micromanager that plans a weekend getaway with her brigade of girls to visit scenic Napa Valley so they can drink wine, make dildo jokes, and ogle at the younger men nearby.
Poehler, in her directing debut, has assembled a dream team for the Netflix comedy (out May 10th - just in time for mother’s day) including Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, Cherry Jones, Maya Erskine, and a butch Tina Fey. It’s clear they all had fun making “Wine Country” - but in essences Poehler fails to give her ensemble picture any definitive moments that standout. Remember the aftermath in “Bridesmaids” when the squad ate a bad dose of Mexican food? Or in “Bad Moms” when the mom possy storms the local grocery store and raids the liquor and whip cream isles? One of “Wine Country’s” signature jokes involves flossing.
“Wine Country” tosses in character motivations like its an afterthought and the group’s chemistry and considerable performance chops lend nuance to what’s essentially a series of sketch comedy sequences that are often hit or miss (Jason Schwartzman brings an effortless ditziness to the role Devon - an in-house chef who comes with the Napa Valley rental property - whose explanation regarding the importance of Cuttlefish is a comedic highlight).
To Poehler’s credit behind the camera, she infuses her frames with relatability and lingering closeups. Beginning with fine dining and ending with a fast-food run, allowing for interwoven moments of brief unpredictability, if only to snap back into a routine that falls too neatly within the lines. Really, “Wine Country” is a smorgasbord of sitcom bits (and the set, not ironically, looks like it was shot on a backstage lot) - with its lukewarm lessons of family and friendship serving as its least convincing aspect. There’s a generous pour here in terms of talent, but the longer the film meanders towards its half-handed conclusion - the more “Wine Country” loses its flavor.