Starring: Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph
Director: Amy Poehler
Running Time: 103 mins
Wine Country is an American film about a group of high school friends who get together for a holiday in California’s wine country for a celebratory holiday as one of the gang turns 50.
While you’ve certainly seen a lot of these actresses in more raucous, energetic comedies in recent years (Bridesmaids, Sisters etc.), Wine Country marks a transition to a slightly more mellow, mature brand of comedy. That’s not to say that this film is in any way devoid of fun, and its more relaxed atmosphere at times even makes it more enjoyable, but it’s a very different style of film to what we’ve become accustomed to from this group.
Now, while I have to say that I’m delighted to see this more mature, mellow approach to comedy filmmaking, I can’t disguise the fact that what Wine Country chooses to do with that approach is rather disappointing, too often trying to make a big deal out of the world of the mid-life crisis, and regularly trying to reclaim a little bit of that raucous youthful energy that isn’t actually all that necessary here.
It’s a difficult balance to get right, because while this film wants to take a slightly more serious and dramatic approach to the psyche of middle-aged women in the modern world, it also wants to celebrate their freedom to live life to the full like they’re in the middle of their youth once again. In that, the split between having boisterous, juvenile fun and more mellow middle-aged fun is a clear one, and one that doesn’t really gel together all that well.
For me, the best moments of this film are the calmer, more mature ones, not just when the story takes a more serious turn, but also when the characters are sitting together enjoying themselves without having to break their bones or get into ridiculous hijinks. There’s a much stronger connection to them as individuals in those quieter moments, and that’s what ultimately makes a good film, whereas the sillier stuff just doesn’t work in quite the same way.
If the movie wanted to be a full-on comedy, then taking the more ridiculous approach would have been better, however when it comes to offering up a slightly more tender and genuine look at life in middle-age, it’s best to tend towards that mellower vibe, which Wine Country doesn’t do enough in my opinion.
The one thing that is consistently strong about this film is the performances, however. While none of the leads are quite on top form due to the film’s frustrated balance between comedy and drama, the main group are all thoroughly likable to follow throughout, and their comedic energy plays in really well in some of the lighter-hearted moments.
Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph do as well as they can to balance their respective characters’ comedic and dramatic contribution, which is good to see, whereas the rest of the actresses are left to sit one side or the other of the divide, with more comic relief from Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell and Tina Fey, and more dramatic emotion from Ana Gasteyer and Emily Spivey.
Overall, Wine Country is a film that tries hard to balance two difficult brands of comedy and drama, taking a bold approach with a more mellow attitude than what we’ve come to expect from this group of actresses, but ultimately falling short as it fails to move away far enough from the sillier youthful hijinks, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.2.