Released: 10th May
Seen: 11th May
Sometimes, in order to make a good comedy, you just need a good comic actor and let nature take its course. Half of the movies by people like Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy are testaments to just what you can do when you get someone who is naturally funny and let them loose on film. So when the basic description of a film can be boiled down to “half a dozen of the funniest women on SNL go to Napa and drink wine for 90 minutes” I was all in, it’s a simple plot that is basically designed to have the actresses show off just what they can do and to come up with some good comedy… I mean, I’m sure that was the intention but let’s talk about the execution of that idea.
Wine Country follows a group of friends going to celebrate a 50th birthday in Napa. Each of them has a very specific set of problems, from work to not having work to potential breast cancer, and throughout the course of many wine tastings, they slowly reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings about how their lives have gone and how they have fallen a little out of touch with each other. I think, mostly the story is about how six funny women go to a home rented by a seventh funny woman and they all get drunk.
In theory, this should work, when I say this film has some funny women in it I’m not kidding. Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey and Tina Fey. I should be able to throw those women in an empty room and film it for 90 minutes and it’d be a laugh riot (and a felony but let’s not focus on that right now). These are all some of the funniest women to pass through Saturday Night Live, it should be easy to pull a large amount of comedy out of them but it just doesn’t happen. Nowhere near as much as it should. A few scenes do manage to really get a lot of good jokes out, Rachel Dratch manages to basically make every line she’s given into a good chuckle, but it’s one of those comedies where they’ll have an idea for a scene that should last two minutes and it ends up taking five. A scene where they talk about potentially taking molly but realise it wouldn’t fit with their current medications could be funny until it goes on for about a minute too long and then just abruptly ends.
The characters are all very one dimensional but that could possibly work with a good cast, since we’re all here to see these women interact and really don’t care about the characters they’re putting on…except this film then tries to have a big emotional climax and while they have built up to it, it just doesn’t work for me. Not only because the characters aren’t really worth caring about (they’re basically given characters because they were too chicken to just send these women to wine country and just make a documentary about them getting drunk) but because the actual big dramatic moment doesn’t matter, it’s fully reversed and resolved about 2 minutes after it’s brought up.
I appreciate that this is Amy Poehler’s directional debut; for the most part, she actually seemed to get some good performances from the actors and has a decent eye for visual style. Yeah, there are some shots that are a little off and the problem where some jokes don’t know when to end (when they stopped being funny would’ve been a good place) but considering it’s her first time directing I’m honestly looking forward to seeing what she can do in the future. Apparently, she’s adapting a book called Moxie so I’m here for that. Less here for this specific film but I’m always here for more Amy Poehler.
Look, this movie is obscenely hard to talk about because it straddles the line between good and bad like it’s threading a goddamn needle. While jokes don’t work, the performances do. While some shots are badly framed, others are lush and glorious to behold. It’s a movie that kills an hour and a half and is easy to get through but it’s very flawed and its jokes are… I guess they’re there but I now sit here struggling to even remember one of them. I like the actresses, I like the view and I didn’t hate this one, but I expected better. Maybe it’d be better with a glass of wine.