Wine Country is a chick flick for chicks of a certain age. It is the story of six women who worked together as waitresses at a pizzeria in their youth, who are now spending a weekend in Napa, celebrating the 50th birthday of one of their legion.
On paper, the movie seems like a good – if not particularly original – idea, but unfortunately, this movie is not very good.
The biggest problem with it is that it’s not very funny. It really should be, as it is directed by and stars Amy Poehler, along with some other big talent from Saturday Night Live, including Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey, but it just misses the mark.
It’s the kind of movie that comes close to being funny, and where you might say, “Oh, that’s funny”, but you never actually laugh out loud, if you know what I mean?
There are inside jokes that us ladies approaching middle age will get: references to Brené Brown, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, and the dangers of a conversation that starts with “Can I just say something?”.
There’s a good scene where someone hauls out a bag of molly and the group agonises over trying it, worrying about its interactions with their thyroid medications and antidepressants, and yes, I could identify hard with this scene because I’ve listened to the podcasts about micro-dosing just as they have and am a little curious but also, maybe I’m too old to be trying these new things.
The bag of molly gets packed away and they all get terribly drunk and wake up viciously hungover but with hair that is still, well, perfect, and with no wine stains on their teeth, and this was also a little disappointing for me, to be honest.
The unfunniness is due to a combination of problems. The writing and the acting come off wooden. The lines don’t fly, the punch lines never quite land.
Tina Fey, who plays the owner of the house the group is renting and a kind of oracle figure, is heavily over-acting, and is not a joy to watch.
The conflict between the friends that is necessary to drive the plot is ho-hum: one of them is a control freak, one of them works too hard and can’t put down her phone, one of them can’t acknowledge that she’s married to a total dud.
There are moments that are seriously predictable: of course someone will put out her back, someone will sleep with the young man assigned to drive the group around for the weekend, and someone will be avoiding messages on her phone that hint at some kind of medical travesty she really should be facing up to.
Of course things will culminate in some kind of group blow-up that turns into a physical disaster that then pushes everyone to realise they are really, truly, after and despite and because of everything, Best Friends Forever.
Wine Country was apparently inspired by an actual trip taken to Napa to celebrate Dratch’s actual 50th birthday, which most of the stars of this movie apparently went on (they’re all friends in real life).
To paraphrase another reviewer, it’s great that this movie exists. It’s nice that there’s a movie about women approaching middle age that centres them not only as real people, but also as fun people, as important people, as people with inner lives worth talking about.
It’s great that there’s a movie about this stage of female friendship: friendship that is formed when one is young and fun and when the world is your oyster, but that perseveres through the years and the changes those years bring.
I really wanted to love this movie, because I feel like it was written just for me, and for my own girl friends. It struck a chord, but it didn’t make my soul hum. There are worse ways to spend 103 minutes of your life, but if I could pick between watching this movie and having a glass of wine, a plate of snacks and a good gossip with my best friends? I’d pick the latter.