Amy Poehler: Director of the Week for ‘Wine Country’

2 min read

Wine Country turns the old “buddy road picture” on its head.

Instead of following two or more male friends who squabble and then make-up on a road trip, this one is all about the women.

In the traditional bromance, women are just arm-candy appendages for the men, mostly being a passive audience for the guys’ appalling antics.

With the exception of Jason Schwartzman in a comic bit as a complimentary chef and unlikely gigolo, this all-women comic ensemble, written and directed by Amy Poehler, doesn’t include any roles for men.

Not so long ago that would have been unthinkable for a feature film.

Rebecca is turning 50 and her five BFFs have decided to celebrate her birthday with a weekend in Napa Valley. All six middle-aged women are definitely not aging gracefully, preferring to remain at least mentally in their “best” years: their college days when they all worked as waitresses in a Chicago pizzeria.

The excursion into wine country goes off the rails immediately as the master planner Abby’s hour-to-hour plans are disregarded, hard-driven businesswoman Catherine won’t get off her cellphone, and Naomi is distraught and distracted by waiting to hear the results of her biopsy.

As the women become more and more annoyed with each other, all the unsaid grievances spill out. But ultimately, the women realize that growing up means leading different lives and becoming distinctly different people. But that doesn’t mean you stop loving your friends. The disastrous birthday excursion turns out to have been a sort of revelatory triumph after all.

The divide between men and women is never addressed in the story. Instead, the cultural split mined for laughs is generational – the divide between Baby Boomers and Millennials, despite both camps being represented mainly by females.

Val, the lesbian, may be 50+, but she’s still very much looking for love, especially with much younger women. Jade is the waitress at the restaurant where the women celebrate Rebecca’s birthday. Val and Jade connect as lesbians and Jade invites Val to the gallery showing of her artworks.

It’s so refreshing to see the foibles and anxieties and bittersweet personal triumphs and defeats, ones specific to women, being the material for comic treatment. And it’s especially nice that so many women today are successful as stand-up comics, comedy writers and directors, and comic actors.

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