(On Netflix.) The premise behind Wine Country is that SNL alumnae Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Ana Gasteyer, and SNL writers Paula Pell and Emily Spivey, wanted to make a movie where the six of them could hang out. (Don’t worry, there’s a part for Tina Fey, too.) This sounds a lot like the premise of Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups movies, but I suspect you have already guessed the difference: In addition to wanting a vacation, the ladies also came up with a funny screenplay (by Spivey and Liz Cackowski, another SNL writer) and actually tried to make a good movie.
They succeeded fairly well. Directed by Poehler, the sunny, relaxed comedy gets too wacky by the end but is generally almost as funny and comfortable as you’d expect a real-life hangout session with these women to be. They play six friends who met as waitresses at a Chicago pizza place 25 years ago, remained close as they scattered to live their lives, and are reuniting now at a gorgeous Napa Valley rental house to spend the weekend celebrating the Dratch character’s 50th birthday and drinking copious amounts of wine.
Everyone around them — including the Airbnb owner (Fey) and a tarot-card reader (Cherry Jones) — assumes that six female friends sharing a tipsy weekend will end up at each other’s throats. The groundwork for that eventuality is laid by the six women’s well-established personalities, flaws, and quirks, which are realistically diverse and not jokey. Abby (Poehler) is a highly organized divorcee who has mapped out the entire weekend; Rebecca (Dratch) is a therapist whose husband treats her like a doormat; Catherine (Gasteyer) is workaholic CEO who’s always too busy; Naomi (Rudolph) is a harried mom of young kids who’s ignoring a voice mail from her doctor because it might contain bad news; Val (Pell) is a gregarious lesbian who befriends everyone, including Uber drivers; Jenny (Spivey) is the party-pooper who never wants to go anywhere or do anything, and is just as surprised as the other five that she actually showed up for this.
The interpersonal beefs, grievances, and disagreements emerge naturally and are, of course, handled. (Spoiler alert: They’re still best friends at the end of the movie.) Along the way, the women laugh, drink, and sing; go on a wine-tasting tour where they exhibit zero interest in learning anything other than how to drink more wine; attend a pretentious art show where they almost have a rumble with a bunch of Millennial women; and marvel at how much older and tireder they’ve gotten since their Chicago days. Not surprisingly, some individual scenes have the level of reality of a comedy sketch (Fey’s character is very funny but not at all plausible as a person), which is frequently entertaining, before we come back to the simpler pleasures of fun people sitting around enjoying one another’s company.