Every week, new original films debut on Netflix and other streaming services, often to much less fanfare than their big-screen counterparts. Cinemastream is Vox’s series highlighting the most notable of these premieres, in an ongoing effort to keep interesting and easily accessible new films on your radar.
The premise: Six middle-aged women who have been friends for decades gather in Napa for a celebratory weekend away. The result: mishaps, mayhem, revelations, and a lot of wine.
What it’s about: The cast is why most people will watch Wine Country, because it’s stacked with women who were writers, cast members, or both on Saturday Night Live. Directed by Amy Poehler, the film was co-written by Emily Spivey and Liz Cackowski, based on a story the three of them cooked up.
Poehler stars as the ringleader of the group of women, which includes Spivey, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell, and Ana Gasteyer. (Tina Fey has a bit part, of course.) And it’s clear the movie draws inspiration from the women’s ongoing relationships with one another. The characters met when they worked at the same pizza place in Chicago; many of the actresses got their start at Second City in Chicago. That’s no accident.
Wine Country is a pleasant enough comedy about friendships in middle age and learning to embrace change. It’s surprising, though, that the film isn’t more fun. The pacing feels oddly slow, which blunts the edges of some of the jokes. For a group of actresses with improv comedy chops, it feels labored at times. And it doesn’t have the zany, unpredictable energy of a movie like Bridesmaids.
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to ask a movie to be what it’s not, but I found myself wishing Wine Country were a documentary about these six women — the actual women, not the characters — traipsing their way through wine country together, or just spending a weekend talking about their lives and their friendships, like a version of Tea With the Dames.
Yet there’s still pleasure to be had from Wine Country; a cast this great can’t go totally wrong. Watch it on the couch, a glass of chardonnay in hand.
Critical reception: Wine Country currently has a score of 68 on Metacritic. At the Wrap, Yolanda Machado writes, “Wine Country shows that women in their 50s are in one of the best phases of their lives, a time to be celebrated, welcomed, and enjoyed with good friends and good wine.”
Where to watch: Wine Country is streaming on Netflix beginning May 10.