Wine Country: A Saturday Night Live Reunion

Back Row: Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch. Front Row: Paula Pell, Amy Poehler, Emily Spivey. Photo by Colleen Hayes.

Wine Country reunites Amy Poehler with many of her Saturday Night Live colleagues as they travel to California for a birthday weekend.

Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), Abby (Amy Poehler), Naomi (Maya Rudolph), Val (Paula Pell), and Jenny (Emily Spivey) are all gathering for a special weekend.  The weekend just so happens to be Rebecca’s 50th birthday.  As such, the women are off to California’s Wine Country to celebrate the milestone birthday.  It’s here where they end up staying at one of five properties owned and managed by Tammy (Tina Fey).

These women all have their own issues.  The birthday weekend could not have come at a better time for everyone.  While it serves as a chance to get together, it also serves as a chance to get away from their lives.

Mostly drawing on actual real life experiences, all of these women know each other from their time in Chicago.  More specifically, Antonio’s pizza place.  It would have been the most meta thing if they had known each other from the likes of Second City, iO, or the Annoyance.  I can’t complain here.  In some ways, I can certainly see Antonio’s serving as a stand-in for the Lorne Michaels-created series.

While it’s great to see these funny women working together in the film, my main fault with the film is that there’s not enough Tina Fey.  There’s a decent amount of Fey but she’s more of a side character compared to the main six stars.  Whether they got their start in Chicago or Los Angeles, Saturday Night Live is what ultimately brought them together.  This shows in their chemistry because they’ve been working off of each other for years.  Co-writers Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey are able to write to the strengths of the cast at hand.  With both writers having written for SNL, they’ve seen those strengths up close and personal.  Well, most of them as Ana Gasteyer’s final episode came in 2002.

If you’re expecting this film to be super heavy on SNL cameos, don’t count on it.  We do get appearances from PEN15‘s Maya Erskine and everyone’s favorite Drunk History star, Craig Cackowski.  Jason Schwartzman co-stars as Devon.  Too many cameos would just distract from Poehler’s directorial debut.

I like what I see from Poehler in her first outing as a feature director.  There is probably no better way than to start your directorial career by working with your friends.  It’s certainly a solid outing even if it’s not one of those films where it’s a laugh a minute.  There are definitely funny moments but at its core, this is a relationship-driven comedy where everyone has their own flaws.  It doesn’t need to be a laugh riot.

DIRECTOR:  Amy Poehler
SCREENWRITER:  Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey
CAST:  Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, with Jason Schwartzman and Tina Fey

Netflix launches Wine Country on May 10, 2019. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.