Movie Review: WINE COUNTRY

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Wine Country, a Netflix original directed by Amy Poehler and scripted by Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey, stars Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Maya Erskine, Tina Fey, Emily Spivey, Ana Gasteyer and Paula Pell in a thoroughly femme-centric turn at the familiar buddy road trip trope.

Poehler’s directorial feature debut is a truly femme-prevalent production — most of ensemble and much of the crew — through and through The ensemble is essentially a feminist reunion of Saturday Night Live sketch comediennes. And, Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey’s script stakes out and covers territory that is certainly familiar to women who will delight in seeing the film’s refreshing feminist perspective on screen.

A group of gal pals who’ve been best friends for decades and who are now at or approaching the angsty realities of middle age, decide to reunite and set out for a cheerful getaway to cinematically scenic Napa to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of their crew. The weekend festivities, set down in a packed itinerary take many comedic turns while the women’s spirits and tongues are liberated by sampling ample quantities of red, white and rose. They shop ‘til they drop, sooth themselves by spa-ing, have their tarot fortunes told (by a delightfully dour Cherry Jones) and, in general, get naughty.

But the ladies also in turns trek through serious midlife soul searching and they share — as really good lifelong friends do — their ruminations about their own lifestyles and each other’s, about their careers and sense of accomplishment (or not), health issues and their relationships with each other and their significant others. There is an element of group therapy in the script, but the quirkier aspects of the gal pals’ itinerary keep the narrative moving forward so that it never stalls or becomes maudlin. Most importantly, the characters’ revelations about themselves and each other are very relatable and will certainly resonate with women audiences, especially those at midlife.

Needless to say, the terrific ensemble covers the both the comedic and serious legs of this cinematic road trip with superb skill, shifting between broad and subtle expressions without dropping their specific and nuanced characterizations. And Poehler’s direction successfully metes out laughs and lows in a way that keeps the femme-centric midlife story in Wine Country from veering too much into either sitcom or soap opera territory.

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

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