Wine Country is a new film serving as the directorial debut of Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation). Starring Poehler and some of her frequent co-stars, the movie is about a group of longtime friends who rent a house in Napa Valley for a weekend to celebrate one of their birthdays, only for tensions to arise.
The story of this film is definitely minimal, with a greater focus being placed on the humor and emotional arc. In all honesty, the only purpose of the story is to get these people in the same place at the same time. You could change the set-up or even the location and it would be pretty much the exact same movie. However, despite the simplicity of the story, it is effective because this is a light and easy-to-watch film, and there aren’t many good examples of that coming out as of late.
There is a ton of comedy in this movie, most of it relying on the relationship between the characters. However, the styles of comedy in the film are much more diverse than that in much of the other movies in which Poehler stars, and as such, more of it lands. There is some raunchy humor, some slapstick humor, and some drunken humor, among other things. The film has plenty to laugh at for everyone, which is part of what makes it so relaxing.
Another reason why the movie works so well is its character development. In something that is rare for ensemble films, there isn’t one character that is dominant in terms of screen time or development. All of the ladies at the center of the movie are given plenty of room for growth and to connect with the audience. Their relationship also goes a long way in making their story compelling.
The film’s message is also quite touching. The movie is heavily about embracing who you are, no matter your age, identity, or anything else that would hold you back. Without feeling like it is preaching or having token characters, the film feels very inclusive. Additionally, the movie’s message about the importance of friendship is very effective too.
The actors all do a very good job in the film. The actresses are all playing parts similar to what they have done before, albeit with much more emotional nuance and complexity. The cast is obviously having a ton of fun, and they build off of each other’s strengths. Some of the highlights in the main cast include Paula Pell and Maya Rudolph. The supporting cast is great too, especially Cherry Jones and Jason Schwartzman, who give hilarious turns.
On a technical level, the movie was solid enough to accomplish its goals. As a director, it seems like Poehler will be great at getting strong performances out of her actors. Additionally, the film doesn’t feel as overindulgent as the debuts of actors-turned-directors usually do. The cinematography of the movie is simple, but effective. There are a few problematic shots with heads cut off, but other shots do an excellent job of capturing the beautiful scenery of Napa Valley (the film was shot on location). Additionally, the movie’s soundtrack is great, with the songs chosen doing a great job of creating a fun tone.
Overall, Wine Country was an enjoyable comedy. It isn’t anything revolutionary, but for what it is, it’s pretty great. The character work is excellent and there are tons of laughs. Be sure to check this one out when it is available on Netflix.
Wine Country opens in select theaters on May 8 and drops on Netflix on May 10.