Wine Country is Agreeable, not Acerbic

There are some comedies you kinda-sorta enjoy despite their lack of funnies. They make for a pleasant evening at home in your pajamas, making you smile without making you laugh. Wine Country is one of those comedies. About a gaggle of middle-aged ladies and long-time friends celebrating a 50th in Napa, Amy Poehler’s directorial debut looks better than it has any right to, enjoying bright skies, sun-kissed plains, and competent cinematography. Unfortunately, the kind words do not extend to a script so beholden to genre cliches that you can guess what’s next about ten to fifteen minutes ahead. Hell, Tina Fey’s lumberjack bee farmer and property owner does just that on occasion, warning the gals (and us) of what’s to come. For her part, Fey is the best part of the endeavor, a clever meta character whose quirks are actually funny, not grating. Maya Rudolph is always a treasure, and she gets one or two big scenes of drunken hilarity, but she too falls prey to the script’s distracted malaise. Poehler cast herself as the straight-woman, allowing her friends and co-stars the opportunity to shine (or not) in broader roles, which is too bad given her personal talent for goofy brilliance. Jason Schwartzmann pops up as a chef and chauffeur who “comes with the house,” in more ways than two, and Cherry Jones is a hoot as a no-nonsense tarot card reader. All in all, Wine Country is agreeable, if not the acerbic mid-life crises comedy or gal pal journey of anti-manners its target audience might have been expecting.

Grade: C+

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