Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wine Country Delivers A Vacation That's At Its Best When It Comes To Easygoing Comedy

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer are the six leading performers of Wine Country. That's quite the roster of talented folks to headline a movie and Wine Country finds plenty of amusing comedy out of just the camaraderie of this troop of actors interacting with one another over a single weekend. Interestingly, though, the biggest problem with Wine Country is how it doesn't lean on such simple comedic pleasures enough. Instead, its story ends up leaning too hard on predictable conflict-laden storylines between the individual six leading characters that make one yearn for more grounded sequences of just these six performers trading witty dialogue back-and-forth. 

The premise that unites all of these actors for a single movie is akin to the hang-out in lavish locations vibe of fellow Saturday Night Live alumni reunion comedy Grown Ups except Wine Country is actually watchable. Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) is turning 50 years old and her five best friends, Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), Jenny (Emily Spivey), Abby (Amy Poehler), Val (Paula Pell) and Naomi (Maya Rudolph), who all met Rebecca and each other while working at a pizzeria in college, come together for a birthday celebration weekend in Napa County. It's a weekend that Abby has meticulously scheduled out to the letter and her over-controlling tendencies are just one example of the kind of character defects each of the leads will have to deal with over the course of this weekend.

Assorted storylines dealing with the flaws of the lead characters of Wine Country have an unfortunate undercooked sensibility to them, mostly because they're executed in a predictable manner. One can tell exactly where non-stop worker Catherine, for instance, is going to go in her plotline, ditto for Naomi and her inability to confront calling back her doctor over some important test results.  Some humorous moments do emerge from these more generic character foibles to be certain, particularly Amy Poehler's hysterical (and personally relatable) depiction of Abby trying to keep everything around her on as tight of a schedule as possible.

However, a surprisingly large amount of the second-half of Wine Country is dedicated exclusively to these character-centric storylines rather than even attempts at comedy, so the derivative nature of the individual plotlines becomes even more discernable. It's especially a shame so much of the movie is centered around these more disposable storylines given that the films best comedic moments, by contrast, utilize a welcome sense of humorous absurdity. Abby's storyline about being too beholden to schedules is something we've all seen before whereas gags like the sight of an oversized spoon supporting character Devon (Jason Schwartzman) uses to cook a massive pan of papaya or Rebecca receiving an epiphany through staring into the eyes of a raccoon family for an entire night have a sense of unpredictability to them.

Just basic comedic interactions between the six lead characters are similarly a hoot, especially since everybody seems to have reasonably good chemistry with one another. The highlights of the main characters have to be the always reliably funny Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch, with the former especially excelling thanks to her brand of comedic gusto coming in handy in numerous memorable Wine Country moments, like when her character delivers a celebratory birthday tune to Rebecca. Paula Pell also leaves an impression as the chipper Val while Tina Fey amuses in the recurring role of the rugged owner of the house Abby and company are renting for the weekend.

The best sequences of Wine Country find director Amy Poehler (making her feature film directorial debut here) discovering an amiable good time by just letting the cameras rolls on the interactions between these assorted amusing performances. Whenever Wine Country is just a hang-out movie, it's a delight. Attempts at character arcs that soon dominate the feature are far more flawed in execution mostly because the individual character defects feel like they could have come from any movie, they lack a desperately needed sense of specificity. The likes of Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch ensure that Wine Country ends up being a mostly amiable comedic trip but it could have easily been a whole lot more than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment