When a film puts a group of classic female comedians together, the film becomes a film I’m interested in seeing. When the film also deals with female friendship and the struggles we face as we grow older, it packs a one-two punch that ticks all the right boxes.
“Wine Country” follows a group of middle-aged women as they take a long weekend to a rental house in the Napa Valley to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) just wants a simple birthday with her friends. She doesn’t even want the weekend to be about her, but her friend Abby (Amy Poehler) has different ideas. And an itinerary.
Along for the weekend are Naomi (Maya Rudolph), Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), Val (Paula Pell) and Jenny (Emily Spivey). They’ve been friends for decades, since the days they were waitresses together at Antonio’s pizza parlor. It’s been years since they were all together, but Rebecca’s birthday is an event worth celebrating.
Of course, nothing goes to plan, but then what fun would the movie be if it did?
Each woman is dealing with her own struggles. As the film begins, they’re planning the birthday getaway on the phone, and the focus shifts fluidly between each woman. We watch Abby packing up her office as she discusses details. Some insights are shared through words instead, but each woman’s story is shared.
There’s Naomi, a mom with four kids, who can’t even go to the bathroom in privacy. We also learn she’s avoiding the test results at her doctor’s office. Jenny is the ultimate introvert who doesn’t want to come on the trip. Catherine is a businesswoman who must be surgically removed from her email. Rebecca is in a crappy marriage she doesn’t realize is crappy. And Val is the group lesbian who just needs somebody to love.
Sure, they all have something they have to figure out. Careers, neuroses, love lives and family situations aren’t anything any of us haven’t dealt with. Anyone who says one — or all — of these things hasn’t been a struggle is lying or extremely blessed.
As I watched “Wine Country,” I kept finding myself in certain situations. Lord knows the planning of the trip felt familiar. My BFF and I have always loved going on trips, whether a long weekend or longer. When we were younger, our planning revolved around things such as the right outfit or making sure you had a curling iron. We’d stay anywhere that was affordable, or at least we did until we hit a budget motel with blood on the shower curtain and pillows that smelled. Our standards had to go up a bit after that.
These days, we’re still looking at affordability and fun, but we’re also making sure we’ve packed essentials like prescriptions or budgeted in time after we get back for a day of rest.
And there was something of myself in many of the characters. Like Rebecca, I’ve been in a toxic relationship, and like Abby, I’ve been at a crossroads when it comes to careers. Like Catherine, I’ve been addicted to my work to the point where loved ones have had to remind me to “be present.”
Jenny and I definitely have plenty in common, as I’ve avoided more social situations than I can count. Sometimes, it’s a bullet dodged, but sometimes, it’s an opportunity I’ve just been too lazy or scared to grab.
And then there’s Naomi. She doesn’t know the test results are bad, but she’s terrified to find out. She’s scared for herself, and she’s scared for her children. As she tells Jenny later on in the movie, she’s scared of dying, but she can’t imagine what it would do to her children to lose her.
“Wine Country” has a lot of funny moments. I haven’t even mentioned hidden gem Tina Fey, who plays Tammy, the rental house owner. She’s a widow who’s grown accustomed to being alone. She offers suggestions/tips to the ladies on ways to avoid the weekend causing rifts between them. All of which are unheeded.
And then there’s Jason Schwartzman, who is one of maybe three men in the film. He plays Devon, the rental house’s, umm, house boy? He cooks, he drives the tour bus and he offers any services necessary renters require.
With this much comedic talent, there’s a lot of funny moments to be had. Each of the leading ladies is a “Saturday Night Live” alum. But, “Wine Country” isn’t just about laughs. It goes far beyond that.
It’s a story of sisterhood and friendship, and it’s a story of growing older. I’m more than a decade away from 50, but I recognize the fragility of this life and the bonds we believe to be sacred. I found myself wiping away tears at one point in the third act as these women realized the importance of their bond and had a “Thelma and Louise” moment. (No, they don’t commit suicide, but it’s a beautiful moment when they simply let loose and say to hell with it.)
If you can handle a bit of crudeness, some bits of foul language and a quick nipple flash, “Wine Country” is a great film to watch with your girlfriends. It’s rare that I find a movie that I say is male-centric or female-centric. While I think men could enjoy this film, this is a film for women to see with your sisters, whether blood or not. I’ve already texted my girls and told them we need a movie night. You should do the same.