10 MAY 2019: Napa Valley, California is well known as a fantastic wine region, attracting thousands of tourists who want to sip and sample their way through the more than 400 wineries, each with their own unique style, setting, and history. However, as many who have signed up for these multi-stop tours have experienced, the informative and educational aspect on that first stop, tends to become less interesting as the tour progresses and the wine consumption continues.

Wine Country is a new comedy being released by Netflix today, that’s centred around this all too common scenario. Just take a look at the cast in this film, and you can’t possibly read it without a smirk coming to your face recalling one of these outrageous ladies in previous movies, prime-time sitcoms, or late night television skits. Now, they are altogether, one screen, one movie, one script full of laughs.

In honour of Rebecca’s (Rachel Dratch) 50th birthday, Abby (Amy Poehler) plans a scenic Napa Valley getaway with their best, longtime friends. Workaholic Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), homebody Jenny (Emily Spivey), weary mom Naomi (Maya Rudolph), and post-op lesbian Val (Paula Pell) are equally sold on the chance to relax and reconnect. This is also Poehler’s directorial debut, and co-stars Tina Fey as cynical Tammy, and Jason Schwartzman as the houseboy Devin (the only male character), along with Maya Erskine, and Cherry Jones who plays the amazing Lady Sunshine.

The film reunites six former SNL on-screen regulars who bonded in real life, and have stayed friends outside ever since, each achieving their own levels of success. In fact, the story line itself came from actual trips the ladies did to Napa Valley. It runs like a one long Seinfeld episode, not that that’s a bad thing.

Poehler’s character Abby arrives with a multi-page binder itinerary that she has prepared for the weekend, and it’s made to be followed by the minute. Dratch’s Rebecca is the complete opposite, easy going, non-confrontational, with a low-key vibe. Maya Rudolph’s character Naomi goes on the getaway despite her anxiety awaiting results of a possible serious medical condition Catherine, played by Ana Gasteyer, is the outcast as she’s portrayed as the successful business person unable to disconnect, which is often the reality these days. Emily Spivey was one of the writers on SNL who actually started the same day as Poehler, and plays Jenny, who’s so convinced she should be spending time with her husband at home instead of being on this trip. Another writer, Paula Pell, pulls off one of the better performances as Val, who is on the hunt for a mate and whose recent knee surgery seems to have given her a boost of self-confidence.

Each character has developed their own personalities as they have matured in life, much as the real life individuals have as well. It happens, and it’s only natural that humans grow and develop. Friendships change, but they can also last, and that’s what this film is about. Well, that and just wanting to drink lots of wine without having to hear the same narrative over and over at every vineyard stop on the tour. Because, in the end, it’s about whether you like red or white!

These women are here for a great time to catch up with friends, reliving their past, while dealing with living in the present. There’s the woes and setbacks, ailments and aches, and there’s also plenty of flashback retro music. If this movie takes off, which it has the potential of doing, then Kim Wilde’s 1981 hit single, “Kids in America”, is going to be the comeback hit of summer.

One thing to note is that this is real life, well not really as they are acting, but where the difference lies is hard to tell. This comedic group of ladies are aging, and a lot of the dialogue is about that, albeit plenty exaggerated. It also makes one wonder whether these escapades were actually based on their real life adventures, or scripted. Either way, many viewers of similar age will definitely be able to see themselves as one of the characters, or see a friend as one of the others.

There’s also a “millennial” component to the movie, where the one non-partnered friend on the trip, Val, becomes immediately enamoured with the waitress Dolly (Sunita Mani) on the group’s first meal outing. Her entire weekend is then spent around trying to connect by text, and other social media avenues, and eventually the ladies get invited out to an art gallery opening, where they encounter all of Dolly’s “sensitive, gender non-conforming” artist friends. Again, more stereotypes that are over-exaggerated, but all in the context of laughs.

Lady Sunshine, the tarot card reader, gives an outstanding performance describing in not so subtle dark detail about how things are going to unfold on this weekend. As well, Devon the “houseboy” that “comes with the house”, offers plenty of laughs as the sole male character in this movie. In the end, a couple of the ladies can vouch that he does indeed come with the house.

There are a few more serious issues brought to light, but overall it’s a light-heated comedy that remains relatable, funny, and has a great soundtrack to boot!

So grab a glass, or bottle, a few of your besties, and get ready to have some laughs.

Wine Country premieres on Netflix, May 10,– www.netflix.com

For those wanting to have a similar experience, check out www.visitnapavalley.com and www.napavalley.com, or for something a bit different try www.winetrain.com

Closer to home here in Toronto, there’s the Niagara Wine Region and Prince Edward County.
www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com, www.princeedwardcountywine.ca

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