As evidenced by their work on Saturday Night Live, in the movie Baby Mama, and on numerous award shows, any time Amy Poehler and Tina Fey get together in the same place, hilarity is almost guaranteed. They, along with a number of other SNL alumni, are teaming up again for the new Netflix movie Wine Country.
Directed by Poehler, the film finds a group of friends confronting middle age while on a trip to California wine country to celebrate the 50th birthday of Rebecca (Rachel Dratch). Each woman has her own issues percolating just under the surface, such as a recent job loss by Abby (Poehler), a health scare by Naomi (Maya Rudolph), a possible career change for Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), and more.
Those issues and the group’s shared history, dating back to their time working together at a pizzeria, threatens to undermine their trip. They must also deal with the odd caretaker (Fey) of the home they’ve rented; Devon (Jason Schwartzman), the home’s overly familiar cook/designated driver; and the loose lips that can come with too much wine.
Poehler and writers Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey (who are SNL veterans themselves) deliver a story that has a lot of situational laughs but is a little light on emotional connection. Each member of the group, which also includes Spivey and Paula Pell, shares pointed jabs and inside jokes with the others, and plenty of them hit the collective funny bone.
But whether it’s a lack of a central figure for the movie to focus on or a mixture of tones that confuses matters, the film never quite establishes the group’s camaraderie. The individual characters work well when the film delves into their personal stories, but when they’re dealing with situations together, the drop in momentum is noticeable.
Still, there’s a certain pleasure in seeing the collective talent doing what they do best. Rudolph is an unparalleled scene-stealer, and she takes the cake even when surrounded by Poehler, Gasteyer, Dratch, and others. Pell is not as familiar in front of the camera, but she makes the most of her opportunity here, giving one of the more memorable performances in the film.
Wine Country is aimed directly at a certain middle-aged demographic and its placement on Netflix means it will likely garner plenty of views from said group. It offers the expected laughs from seasoned comedians but could’ve used a boost in the storytelling department.
Wine Country is playing theatrically at Landmark Magnolia before debuting on Netflix on May 10.