WINE COUNTRY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Netflix’s Wine Country isn’t quite Sideways for a gaggle of six middle-aged gals. For one, it is set in Napa and not Santa Barbara. For another, writers Emily Spivey and Liz Cackowski, who show up on the screen as well, keep the dialogue at a sitcom-level pitch and packed with zingers. That includes the phrase, “Things we say now,” which is akin to the The Office’s “That’s what she said,” but with an age-related slant rather than a dirty joke. That a CPAP device is a recurring gag should tell you something.

As directed by Amy Poehler, whose control-freak Abby is in charge of the jam-packed itinerary as the crew celebrates the 50th birthday of mutual pal Rebecca (Rachel Dratch), she is better at the comical situations than the more heartfelt encounters. While the cast is peppered with funny ladies, including other Saturday Night Live alums such as Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and Tina Fey, they are rarely allowed to stop being stock characters rather than feel like real human beings. A few of the players especially Paula Pell, a comedy writer who makes her lesbian who is looking for love more than just a gay stereotype, along with the amazing Cherry Jones as a tarot card reader who seems to enjoy delivering bad news a little too much, manage to elevate the material.

That said, you will likely be amused now and then – from an art exhibit built around Fran Drescher’s The Nanny to Jason Schwartzman as a house boy who makes the world’s biggest batch of paella — even if this isn’t a primo vintage comedy moment for lady kind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wine Country is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for May 17, 2019

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.