The new Amy Poehler comedy “Wine Country,” debuting on Netflix May 10, is so much more than a funny gal-pal movie a la Bridesmaids. Instead, it’s a perimenopausal romp that looks at the wonders of becoming a middle-aged woman through the lens of a Chardonnay bottle. Then, it plants a stylish-but-comfortable Dansko in the rear end of Hollywood with fluffy female cast members wearing CPaps, getting awkwardly drunk in public, gifting each other, uh, adult novelty pleasure toys, and exploring complicated relationships between friends.
Set in Napa, the coming of middle age movie features comedians Poehler (who directed), Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Emily Spivey, Ana Gasteyer Paula Pell and a few brief appearances by Tina Fey. As a woman about to turn 50, it was easy to snort at every joke about bikini waxes, Wellbutrin, not understanding Snapchat, listening to podcasts about micro-dosing and being baffled about how you ended up throwing your back out by trying to unlock a door. Minor spoiler alert, it also features a cameo by Brene Brown. If that information makes you gleeful, you’re gonna love this movie. (If you have no idea who Brene Brown is, let me recommend Daring Greatly or her TED-talks or her recent Netflix special ‘Call to Courage’.)
On another level, living in Wine Country, it’s hard not to feel a bit of pride at the awe-inspiring shots of our vineyards, sweeping vistas and agri-chic lifestyle. It’s also pretty cringe-worthy to watch the cast encounter snooty tasting room staff, be served ‘Lavender Popping Corn” on a stick at a restaurant, and encounter a spacey Paella guy who “comes with the house” they rent for the weekend. Played by Jason Schwartzman, he’s loosely based on our own Paella Guy, Gerard Nebesky who knows Dratch and some of her friends. Throughout the movie, I was searching out what parts of “Devon” were Gerard, and what parts were Hollywood. The scene where he describes catching a cuttlefish in Bodega Bay for the giant pan of paella he’s trying to finish for the entire movie — totally Gerard (even though there aren’t any cuttlefish in Northern California waters and paella doesn’t take two days to make).
Wine Country—actually Napa—plays a central role in the movie, with plenty of shots of the ladies at wineries not giving a hoot about top notes or tartrates, notable spots in Calistoga, Artesa Winery and other non-specific vineyards. It’s not necessarily a very flattering look, but it is recognizable to those of us who live and work here.
One huge miss for the movie: The paper “wish lanterns” — you know the paper lanterns with little candles in them that fly into the air — yeah, they had like 30 of those going into the night sky of Napa at the end of the movie. Pretty, but all I could think was…uh, that’s a fire hazard for a region that, you know, went up in flames like a year and a half ago? Too soon.
This isn’t an Oscar-winner or a classic. It’s fun and funny. It’s raw and honest in a way that only women writers and actors could portray realistically. It features wonderfully imperfect bodies in sometimes unflattering ways. It’s set in a pretty place we recognize. It’s about women in stretchy skinny jeans and Spanx who are starting to become invisible to the world but finally manifesting to themselves. Welcome to Wine Country.
Want to see it on the big screen? Summerfield Cinemas is showing it starting May 9 (551 Summerfield Rd, Santa Rosa)