HomeMovies'Wine Country' Review: Bridesmaids Meets Sideways

‘Wine Country’ Review: Bridesmaids Meets Sideways

Wine Country Cast
Photo Credit: Netflix

By Michael Vacchiano

Like a fine glass of its namesake beverage, Netflix’s newest comedy Wine Country acts as a rich varietal of other aged yet renown films of the genre. Star/producer Amy Poehler’s debut as a film director can probably best be described as a blend of 2004’s Sideways and 2011’s Bridesmaids…or “Bridesways” as I’ve affectionately nicknamed it. While not nearly on the level of those other two modern comedy classics, Wine Country still touches on familiar themes to deliver a satisfying, but not spectacular, film nonetheless.

To her credit, Poehler has put together a hilarious and talented ensemble of women to showcase here, stemming from all their years as friends and collaborators on Saturday Night Live. Longtime supporting player Rachel Dratch takes the lead as Rebecca, an unhappily married therapist on the verge of turning 50. Her micromanaging, control freak friend Abby (Poehler) convinces her to celebrate with a birthday weekend in northern California’s Napa Valley with all their best gal pals: stressed-out mother of four Naomi (Maya Rudolph), successful workaholic Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), raunchy lesbian Val (Paula Pell), and sarcastic pessimist Jenny (Emily Spivey).

Drawing inspiration from a real-life trip the actresses took together to said destination, Wine Country benefits from the authentic relationships these ladies share. Their characters have been friends since working together at a Chicago pizzeria 20 plus years ago –conceivably a fictional stand-in for their SNL days. Once these six women arrive in the California countryside for a much-needed three-day break from their lives, their chemistry oozes through in every scene.

One-liners are aplenty as well as inside jokes shared amongst the group as they jam out to their favorite songs, engage in random chitchat…and yes, drink A LOT of wine. Simply there to cut loose, the women could care less about the types of grapes they’re consuming with their clear “shut up and pour!” attitudes. Nary is there an empty glass as the women down bottles of pinot like there’s no tomorrow. The whole affair is amusing and acts like one long book club/sorority party crossover for the middle-aged crowd.

While Poehler may be the biggest name amongst the group of friends, it is Pell and Spivey who could be considered the breakout stars of Wine Country. The two have primarily worked as writers for SNL and other series and films, and truly get chances to shine here on camera. Pell is hilarious as the lusty Val who’s never shy with the vulgarity, while Spivey’s dry and cynical delivery could almost darken the beautiful California sunshine.

Jason Schwartzman shows up as the spacey and eccentric Devon, the women’s personal chef and tour guide for the trip. Hysterical in his own right, Schwartzman still takes a backseat as a mere spectator to the ladies’ shenanigans. Despite her limited screen time, it is Tina Fey who may just steal the entire show as Tammy, the landlord who owns the idyllic house the women rent for the weekend. Fey creates yet another memorable character for her resume who’s sharp-witted Tammy is equal parts blue-collar roughneck and West Coast hippie.

Breaking through amongst the hilarity is the friends’ camaraderie  when discussing their respective anxieties. Poehler, who assisted Wine Country writers Spivey and Liz Cackowski, brings to the forefront some prominent issues that women tend to commonly deal with. Body image, marriage woes, and career fulfillment are all problems that the characters are wrestling with, as are plenty of the movie’s target audience members I’m sure. The filmmakers deserve lots of credit for spotlighting these topics in a funny but still realistic way.

Poehler the director has plenty of experience behind the camera, helming many episodes of television including her hit series Parks and Recreations. With a clear eye for comedy, she is content to simply aim the lens at her group of friends and let them do their thing. Besides trusting them to generate the laughs, Poehler also works hard to capture the beautiful and scenic splendor of Napa Valley. Mission accomplished on both ends.  

My main gripe with Wine Country, however, is how the film deals with its primary conflict. Despite all the good times and reminiscing shared between the friends, there is still bits of underlying tension that have built up over the years. The ladies appear to be having too much fun throughout the film’s runtime that any hidden animosity almost appears to be coming out of left field. The resolution of said conflict also feels way too rushed and, in my opinion, could have been delved into a little deeper with more explanation. Or perhaps it can all just be chalked up to the amount of alcohol consumption? In vino veritas, indeed.

While not fantastic or in the upper echelon with other movies in its category, Wine Country is still an extremely solid addition to Netflix’s catalogue of original films. Multi-hyphenate Amy Poehler’s debut is an extremely funny but flawed showcase for her cast of friends, despite a few inconsistencies. It most definitely won’t be the best thing you’ve ever drank, but it’s still a nice bottle that’s worth uncorking.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Wine Country is now streaming on Netflix.


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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