Out and About
Wine Country – how can this not be hilarious? In select theatres May 8 and Netflix May 10, 2019
Just take a look at the cast in this film, and you cannot 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 barrel full of laughs.
In honour of Rebecca (Rachel Dratch)’s 50th birthday, Abby (Amy Poehler) plans a scenic Napa getaway with their best, longtime friends. Workaholic Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), post-op Val (Paula Pell), homebody Jenny (Emily Spivey), and weary mom Naomi (Maya Rudolph) are equally sold on the chance to relax and reconnect. Yet as the alcohol flows, real world uncertainties intrude on the punchlines and gossip, and the women begin questioning their friendships and futures.
Great to see this directorial debut from Poehler that’s a hilarious and heartfelt comedy, and also co-stars Tina Fey as cynical Tammy, and Jason Schwartzman as houseboy Devin, along with Maya Erskine, and Cherry Jones. The film reunites half a dozen real-life friends who bonded as SNL regulars on-screen, and have stayed friends outside ever since, each achieving their own levels of success. In fact, the storyline for this movie came from actual trips the ladies did to Napa Valley.
This runs like a long Seinfeld episode, not that that’s a bad thing. Each character has developed their own personalities, 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 from every vineyard stop on the tour about how its produced. Because, in the end, it’s about about whether you like red or white!
All five, oops six, of these ladies drop out of their regular routine, oops back to five, to have a great time trying to relive 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 appropriately riotous 1981 single, “Kids in America”, is going to be the comeback hit of summer. As well, there might even be a spike in tourism inquiries about Napa Valley, that’s how much fun this is.
One thing to note is that this is real, well not really, and these ladies are aging, and a lot of the dialogue is about that, albeit plenty exaggerated. But, that’s where most (older) viewers will be able to see themselves within one of the characters, or see a friend as one of the others. It also makes one wonder if these escapades actually were based on events between these ladies.
There’s also a “millennial” component to the movie, where the one non-partnered friend on the trip is a lesbian, and becomes immediately enamoured with the waitress on the groups first meal outing. The entire weekend is around her trying to connect by text, and eventually the ladies get invited out to the waitresses art gallery opening, where all her “sensitive, gender non-conforming” artists friends are. Again, more stereotypes that are over-exaggerated, all in the context of laughs.
Lady Sunshine, the tarot card reader, gives an outstanding performance describing in not so subtle detail about how things are going to unfold on this weekend. As well, Devin 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.
Overall it’s a light-hearted story with a couple serious issues brought to light, yet it remains relatable, comedic, and has a great soundtrack to boot!
More on the characters themselves as outlined in a previous Variety review.
Poehler plays the control-freak organizer, Abby, who compensates for a recent job loss by bossing everyone else with her to-the-minute itinerary for the entire trip. Dratch’s Rebecca considers herself fairly easygoing by comparison, but maybe that’s because she refuses to confront what’s not going well in her life lately. (In any case, it’s a delight to see Dratch rewarded with a lead role, rather than a secret-weapon walk-on, as she’s more often deployed.)
As Naomi, Maya Rudolph reminds what a pleasure it is to see her improv skills unleashed, but is also saddled with the most frustrating backstory, involving an ominous medical diagnosis that she’s convinced could be terminal — an anxiety exacerbated by a tarot card reading from a local hippie (Cherry Jones). Ana Gasteyer represents the workaholic of the bunch, Catherine, who can’t be far from her cellphone for any length of time (although in 2019, that’s a problem with practically all humans on a group trip like this one). Still, the guilt she feels over her success, and the distraction it causes, spawns a chain reaction of recognizable neuroses.
Rounding out the cast are two incredibly funny women who are less familiar as actresses, having served as writers on “SNL” during Poehler’s time on the show. Emily Spivey started the same day as Poehler, and here keeps a relatively low profile as Jenny, who’s so convinced she’d rather be spending time with her husband at home that she hardly allows herself to enjoy the weekend. If Spivey plays it subtle, then Paula Pell might as well be her radioactively extroverted opposite as lesbian Val, whose recent knee surgery seems to have given her a boost of self-confidence.
Premieres on Netflix May 10, 2019
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.