Review – Wine Country (2019)

Amy Poehler is the latest actor-turned-director to make the transition from in front of the camera to behind it, serving a dual purpose in Wine Country, her directorial debut for Netflix. Calling on her comedian friends to form the funny female ensemble, does Poehler’s first effort in the director’s chair suggest a promising new career path for the Parks and Recreation alumni?

Visiting California’s wine country to commemorate a 50th birthday, a group of friends find themselves experiencing an evolved group dynamic that could cause the friendships to fall to pieces over the course of their celebration. With Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey and Tina Fey starring alongside Poehler, have this clearly-skilled cast created a new comedy classic?

While perhaps not as side-splittingly hilarious as it could have been given the talent at its disposal, Wine Country is nevertheless a frequently amusing and consistently enjoyable piece with more on its mind than red, rose or white. It breaks very few boundaries on a storytelling level but among the chuckles is a rarely-seen, sweet and touching exploration of female friendships; while these relationships are tested, it is done so in a thoughtful and authentic way. Capitalising on individual strengths of the actors, all the women have their own personality but the interactions between certain individuals is what makes the film so interesting to watch, exploring the dynamics that will be only too familiar in your own friendship circle.

If Wine Country’s simple story doesn’t provide enough for some audiences, the women that populate the tale should be enough of a draw. It thrives in the earlier scenes when they’re simply having fun; from breaking out into song to car journey back-and-forth, there is an infectious energy that throughout. You could watch the group interplay all day but each are given their own moments to shine too,  with Maya Rudolph and Paula Pell as the film’s MVPs. Rudolph’s Eternal Flame karaoke-ing and Pell’s Merry Vagmas are notable highlights, taking advantage of these naturally hilarious women’s abilities to ad-lib to their heart’s content. The film looked like an absolute blast to film and the more the characters are having fun, the more the audience does too. 

Amy Poehler’s has the directorial chops to sustain a career if she so desires. While the luscious, sun-tinted setting helps the visuals pop, Wine Country is, by design, a rather simplistic affair. No doubt informed by the experiences throughout her career, Poehler approaches her debut as an actor showcase: uncomplicated (but some may argue, unambitious), she allows her peers the scope to flex their comedic muscles and experiment, entrusting them with the material – and their proclivity to diverge from the script when they want.

Wine Country is an enjoyable, amusing and satisfying comedic diversion and watching these talented women do what they do best is enough to entertain. Rudolph and Pell are the standouts but the charming ensemble work best together when they’re having fun. Whether you would be as easily pleased with Wine Country if you had paid to see it in a theatre, given how straightforward it appears at times, that’s the beauty of Netflix and streaming services; you won’t feel too hard done by.

So, may I offer you some feedback? Settle down with some snacks and a glass of your favourite tipple and journey to the Wine Country.

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