Updated: Mar 20, 2020
Despite its funny stars and vineyard setting, the new Netflix film "Wine Country" focuses more on fears induced by middle age than on filling bellies with laughs or alcohol. Not to say that star and first-time director Amy Poehler forsakes her comedy roots from "Saturday Night Live" or "Parks and Recreation," but as a hugely female-centric project, "Wine Country" plays its humor without emphasizing the kinds of physical pratfalls and crude routines dominating projects inspired by the mindset of twelve-year-old boys.
This helps explain why "Wine Country" opens on a streaming platform rather than in theaters; despite the huge number of women whose birthday cakes feature more than forty candles, this group proves unreliable as theater goers. Though shot with feature film qualities, "Wine Country's" people-oriented story works perfectly well on a small screen, preferably joined by a glass of the title substance.
Wine glosses over a script that fills time with purposefully bad dancing and lots of talk. Fermented grape juice also enhances genuinely funny moments. Without any wine content, a standout scene comes during a confrontation between self-righteous millennials and the story's disillusioned group of women from an older generation. Poehler, as leader of the band, proves generous to her compatriots, giving each the chance to shine individually. This includes Poehler's partners as presenters at awards shows, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey. Like them, key performers come from Poehler's time on "Saturday Night Live" and demonstrate the precise comic timing they refined on the show.
"Wine Country" also makes good use of its title location, with sweeping shots of Napa County's gorgeous green vineyards. Poehler adds to the glossy impact with effective choices of upscale venues such as Sinskey and Mondavi. A general scorn for snobbery adds to humor as the story's women enthusiastically empty their glasses but stare blankly at all educational efforts by winery staff members who toss around big words and odd descriptors. Using grape metaphors that the women might despise, the movie more accurately works with the title Pinot Grigio country — light and refreshing but without deep substance.
This review was originally aired on 5/20/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/wine-country#stream/0