Wine Country is a weirder movie than its simple “girls weekend” premise lets on. As Amy Poehler’s directorial debut, it’s a safe bet. As a comedy about a group of friends goes, it is different than most. The result is something that’s very surprising, but possibly not in a good way.
Amy Poehler’s direction here is totally competent, in the sense that she knows all the ways a comedy should work to be successful. However, a lot of scenes here feel like SNL sketches stitched together by the same cast of characters. There’s no real sense of flow to the movie, and it could really use it. It’s also a little disappointing that there wasn’t more attention paid to the beauty of Napa Valley in the cinematography, but that’s a relatively small gripe. As a whole, this direction is a fine first effort, but someone who knows comedy and is so funny herself, Poehler definitely could have done better.
The plot here has a few small moments that work, but otherwise you can probably predict every single beat before it happens. The movie follows a group of women who go to Napa Valley to celebrate one of their birthdays, with all of them carrying some baggage in one form or another. Now if that sounds like a premise you’ve seen before, that’s because you have; probably a half dozen times at least. There is almost nothing remarkable about the beats that this film hits, and it’s really disappointing. Great comedies like The Hangover elevate simple premises with ridiculousness and energy, but this movie unfortunately plays it way too safe. Worst of all, it’s just not very funny.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
It’s very clear that without a doubt, the cast of this movie is having a lot of fun. The playful energy shared between Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, and Emily Spivey comes through loud and clear, which almost compensates for how generic their characters are. Tropes are on full display here, with the controlling friend, wild card, and too-busy-with-work member all here and accounted for. The cast also includes Jason Schwartzman as a playful chef/driver and Tina Fey as the owner of the house they rent. With a cast this stacked, I was so disappointed to find characters this unoriginal and not memorable. A real bummer.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The soundtrack for this movie might be a bit “basic” but it’s still a lot of fun. Playing plenty of throwback hits that fit the mood to the letter helps. It also closes with a very lovely cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U,” and I’m an absolute sucker for Prince, folks.
Everything here looks just fine. The whole film maintains the feel and lightness of summer in California, with the characters all outfitted properly for a vacation. It all feels real, which was good enough for me. At no point did it not feel like they were in the land of wine and sun, and it gave the film a nice, warm energy.
It is entirely possible that this movie wasn’t made for me, and I acknowledge that. At the end of the day though, I was still very excited for this movie and left disappointed. I only laughed aloud two or three times, and the plot was so predictable that I knew the ending about half an hour in. I will say this, though: if you’re looking for a movie to watch on a summer’s afternoon or night with a glass of wine in hand, you could do a lot worse than Wine Country. If you like turning your brain off for an easy, breezy comedy about friends, then you just might squeeze some fun out of this one.