Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
Just a week after Netflix dropped the haunting and ghastly Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile on us—chronicling the life and times of serial killer Ted Bundy—they grace us with the utterly mindless and frothy Wine Country, an estrogen-loaded, SNL-alum-heavy vino-fest.
I’m not sure the stark contrast between the films really matters, though, since it’s doubtful too many people who sat down for the tale of a murderous sociopath then decided to cuddle up on the couch a week later for chick flick about a half-dozen women who bond during a Napa Valley weekend.
Regardless, Wine Country continues to prove that Netflix has a decent eye for spotting movies that may not have fared well if given a theatrical run but still deserve to have at least a fair number of eyes see them.
In her directing debut, Amy Poehler (who also produced and stars) shepherds a gaggle of her best friends—including Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, and Paula Pell—through a 50th birthday getaway for Rachel Dratch’s Rebecca. And, fittingly enough, it was inspired by a real-life 50th birthday getaway the ladies took with Dratch.
Immediately reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s Grown-Ups movies (in that it’s a thinly-veiled excuse for an actor to visit a nice place while hanging out with a group of real-life friends for a month of filming), Wine Country has about as much depth as a petri dish, but like a fine wine, it goes down nice and easy.
Poehler plays Abby, a control freak who pre-scheduled every minute of the weekend and provides the itinerary to everyone in a custom three-ring binder. Gasteyer is Catherine, the workaholic of the bunch, and Rudolph is Naomi, the anti-Abby who needs a break from her brood. Paula Pell’s Val is the lesbian of the group, and Emily Spivey (who co-wrote the screenplay with LIz Cackowski) rounds out the band of revelers as the unhappily-married Jenny. And of course Tina Fey is onboard too, playing Tammy, the owner of the destination villa.
The characters are fairly thin and one-dimensional to be sure, but cast isn’t just treading water. Their unmistakable chemistry is on full display, and it’s clear these women are authentic, real-life buds. A good portion of the fun of Wine Country is getting an inside glimpse of how some of your favorite comedians act when the cameras aren’t around; we can be fairly sure this is exactly how the gang was on Dratch’s real birthday weekend back in 2016.
Through the script could have benefited from another round of tightening up—the plot never really goes anywhere you don’t expect it to ultimately go—there are dozens of moments that earn a hearty chuckle along the way, including riffs on everything from Kid Rock to The Nanny to Colonel Sanders. The comedy is often blue, occasionally charming, and rarely fails to stick the landing.
All told, Wine Country is one of those “perfectly fine” films—a nice, entertaining way to kill some time with your girlfriends as you all dream about heading to Napa yourself one of these days. It’s as harmless as a nice gentle sip of boxed white wine and just as satisfying.