Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A comedy about a 50th birthday

Amy Poehler makes her directorial debut with Wine Country, a comedy about six friends who gather at a home in the Napa Valley to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of their number. When you watch Wine Country, it will be difficult not to see that the women on the screen -- a group that includes Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Rachel Dratch, and Ana Gasteyer, as well as Poehler and Emily Spivey -- are having a good time. That impression may result from the fact that some of these women evidently made a similar trip together in real life, which is where Poehler got the idea for the movie. She even makes room for old pal Tina Fey, who appears in a drop-in role as the owner the house the women have rented for their weekend celebration. Poehler makes sure that each of these women has a highlight moment with the best delivered by Pell, as the group's gay pal, and the always enjoyable Rudolph, as a woman who's secretly worrying about a possible health issue. Dratch portrays the self-effacing woman whose birthday the group is celebrating. The movie also includes a visit from a tarot card reader (Cherry Jones) and a cameo from TED Talks star Brene Brown. Jason Schwartzman signs on as Devon, the chef and chauffeur who comes with the rented house and who spends hours making paella for the group. The women are characterized in ways that reflect someone's idea -- actually screenwriters Spivey and Liz Cackowski -- about what might be on the minds of 50-year-old women: aging, careers, marriages, and relationships (or the lack of them). You won't hear anything resembling the kind of discussions that rely on high-flying bouts of imagination. More amusing than uproarious, Wine Country's cast sells this slender movie, which includes the usual "serious" counterpoint that seems to have become part of every comedy. The story resolves predictably, but the actresses who gather in wine country give the movie its kick -- not a major kick, but a kick nonetheless.

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