Amy Poehler’s feature directorial debut, “Wine Country,” is the story of friends brought together for a birthday but it is also a real-life comedy reunion. Poehler and co-stars Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch made their comedy bones on “Saturday Night Live” and reunite now in an ode to female friendship.
Poehler plays Abby, the under-employed a-type organizer of a Napa getaway for her therapist friend Rebecca’s (Dratch) 50th birthday. “I want this to feel like a regular vacation,” says Rebecca. “We’ll sit around, talk, wear muumuus and somewhere in there I’ll slide into 50.” Of course, it won’t be that simple. Abby’s perfectionism, not to mention her minute-by-minute itinerary, doesn’t sit well with the others who have their own issues. Entrepreneur Catherine (Gasteyer) is a workaholic, always checking her cell phone. “Life’s a juggle,” she says. Jenny (Emily Spivey, who also co-wrote the script) is agoraphobic and doesn’t want to leave her room while mother of four Naomi (Rudolph) is avoiding her doctor’s phone calls and Val is involved with a much younger woman.
They came together to rest, relax and reconnect but as the weekend progresses the words of Tammy, owner of their Airbnb appear to come true. “Just remember,” says Tammy (Fey), “whatever gets said is probably what the person has always thought and alcohol just let it out.”
Before it gets to its ultimate “it’s later than you think” message “Wine Country” is a charming collection of physical humour—it’s always funny when somebody falls down—mom jokes—“I thought MDMA was that extreme fighting where they do cocaine and fight,” says Val.—and some very specific in-jokes—“Life is too short to wait for the paella.”
Poehler plays much of this for laughs but doesn’t forget to create memorable moments. A long close-up on Abby’s face as she makes a decision is both funny and telling of her state of mind. The bickering between the friends as secrets come to light has a delicate touch but underneath the gags are real insights about the life events that drive wedges between lifelong besties. Light but heartfelt, it’s a celebration of adult female friendship in all its forms from Naomi’s enthusiastic “let’s party till our panties fly off” call to arms to the film’s more tender moments.
“Wine Country” is at its best when it showcases the chemistry of the performers. Pop psychology and pratfalls aside, it’s great fun to spend time with these women as they figure out their lives and relationships.