23rd May2019

‘Wine Country’ Review (Netflix)

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, Jay Larson, Tina Fey, Maya Erskine, Jason Schwartzman | Written by Liz Cackowski, Emily Spivey | Directed by Amy Poehler

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Wine Country is famed comedienne Amy Poehler’s directorial debut and stars an all-star cast of female SNL alumni, both in front and behind the camera in the likes of Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey etc. The film follows a group of friends getting together in Southern California for a tour of good food and good wine for one member fiftieth birthday party. However, even with a terrific cast list, Poehler’s film is flat, unimaginative and quite frankly boring, with a screenplay that has no punch or comedic prowess and the narrative incredibly stiff with a snail pace running time.

Where Wine Country succeeds is in the small intimate moments of its character. Sequences that focuses purely on one on one circumstances within the film offers so much in emotional weight and layers. You slowly begin to feel the empathy, humanity and bond between this group of women, but when the group begins to swell, and all characters are present the film loses that specific connection by trying to stretch its limit by solely serving individual standout moments rather than the collective. Therefore, the relationship intended to craft, buckles, under the weight to highlight each particular character, notably considering that this ensemble is struggling at all times to find a character to stand out.

It’s the writing by trio Emily Spivey, Liz Cackowski and Amy Poehler that fails to inject any form of flavour or intrigue in the events that unfold. The project itself is incredibly predictable and ordinary, elements that can be restrained if the material at hand is merely entertaining and not routine, however, Wine Country is as safe and ironically watered down to purified sense as one could ever imagine.

It doesn’t have to be foul or crass, but the conviction is a shadow of what we’ve seen delivered by these terrific actresses and writers in past cinematic entities. Poehler for one is lost in the pack completely with very little screen presence or command, presumably due to her double role as the film’s director and star, but even in the former the flair or persona is lacking a voice and style. Everything is diluted and opaque, finding little life on the screen via cinematographer Tom Magill of which does very little for the audience finding life in this story. The colour grading and edit are solid, the former is strong with intense greens, reflecting the jealousy and the underbelly of the group itself, but the humour is astonishingly lacklustre.

Perhaps it’s a contextual component to reflect how these characters are out of touch but it doesn’t add up with how smart and strong these characters actually are or written. It sadly comes down to just incredibly poor writing. An element that falls ever so flat and uninspiring, it even affects the relatively fair running time, resulting in a snail pace of boredom towards an underwhelming and washed out finale.

Wine Country is available on Netflix now.

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