Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Friends Head to Napa in Netflix’s ‘Wine Country’
For her feature film directorial debut, Amy Poehler tells the funny and heartfelt story of a group of women facing 50 in Netflix’s “Wine Country.” Poehler leads the ensemble cast as Abby, the Type A career woman who organizes a girls trip to Napa Valley. As the story was inspired by a real-life trip that Poehler and her friends took two years ago to celebrate Rachel Dratch’s birthday, it’s only appropriate that Dratch should play Rebecca, the birthday girl. The rest of this gang of longtime friends includes Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), the owner of a chain of pizza restaurants whose chained to her cell phone, Naomi (Maya Rudolph), a mom looking to let loose, Val (Paula Pell), a single lesbian who hopes to meet someone, and Jenny (Emily Spivey, who co-wrote the screenplay with Liz Cackowski), an anxious woman whose travel fears include things like finding semen on bed sheets.
Poehler’s frequent collaborator, the great Tina Fey, co-stars as Tammy, the oddball owner of the house rented by Abby. She goes above and beyond her duties as an Airbnb host, offering up advice, as she sense the tension between the friends almost immediately. Most of the conflict comes not so much from the relationships, although there are some resentments, particularly when it comes to Catherine, as she has been neglecting her relationships due to her devotion to her career. Rather, the discomfort comes the women’s individual secrets and personal trials that hinder their abilities to just relax and enjoy the wine. Predictably, Abby reaches her boiling point, and it comes as no surprise that Rebecca, a therapist, is in the most need of self-reflection.
Loosely structured, “Wine Country” offers a slice-of-life look of women at a certain stage in life. With so many supremely talented female colleagues to choose from, it must have been difficult for Poehler to select her core cast, and while each woman brings something to the table, the film suffers from lack of character development. However, there are plenty of humorous moments that make the film a worthwhile Netflix offering. Highlights included Cherry Jones as a gloom and doom tarot card reader, multiple sommeliers who take their jobs too seriously, and Jason Schwartzman as the crunchy chef who “comes with the house” and ends up in bed with Abby (her response to his proposition is priceless). But perhaps the high point comes after Val talks the girls into attending an art show featuring the works of Jade (Maya Erskine), a young waitress she hopes to get with. However, when they arrive, they discover that Jade’s art is inspired by the sitcom “The Nanny” (“an exploration of classism in the nineties”). All of this leads to a bonding moment in the emergency room and a reminder that life isn’t too be taken too seriously at any age.
“Wine Country” premieres May 10 on Netflix.