Review of Wine Country on Netflix: the perils of representing women over 50

In Wine Country, Amy Poehler directs a job-lot of her friends, including Tina Fey, in a film about a job-lot of friends who do a birthday weekend away in wine country. I usually get the Amy/Tina wit, but was royally disappointed with this one, actually pissed off that women can portray women as such one dimensional, mean, unattractive nobodies who have nothing to share but a disdain for millennials.

Despite the great physical acting of the cast members, and the comic timing brilliance displayed by Abby (Amy Poehler’s character) when asked if she’d like to fuck the boring-as-fuck cook that ‘comes with the house’, I barely mustered a chuckle, even half a one on the inside. I wasn’t emotionally moved either, because these women seem to have no inner lives I could connect to. Even when Val (played by Paula Pell) is painfully snubbed by the potential love interest, I felt no empathy. Okay, the love interest is as cute as, but falling for the young wait staff? Isn’t that a gendered male cliche? Is it so hard to write a woman’s experience?

What dismayed me the most was the self centered back biting. Tina Fey swans in and out cameo like as wise and crusty Tammy, warning the women against wine induced oversharing, especially beginning sentences with ‘can I just say something’, which predictably the women proceed to do. But their complaints about each others’ character flaws don’t lead to tensions worth exploring or healing. The snide judgments merely expose the cesspool of disappointment and searing regret that they try to medicate away with a formidable array of prescription drugs.

The most egregious scene is when the six women end up at an art exhibition with a room full of millennials. Here they complain about the overconfidence of youth, their easy access to porn and of course, the internet is somehow implicated. The millennials are fascinated by the ‘grouchy’ women and start taking photos of them on their phones. I hate this scene, even though it’s potentially the funniest.

Why this constant need to pit women in their middle years against millennials? Why are women always defined as ‘a lack’? We’re either lacking youth, lacking a penis, lacking sex appeal…this film may pass the Bechdel Test, but its rampant ageism is just…. yuck!

When the women protest against being called grouchy, the tables turn unexpectedly and their protestations are misconstrued as performance art supplementing the exhibition. The millennials end up loving it, and the women are silenced by their hugs. Which brings me back to Tammy’s warning, don’t begin with ‘can I just say something’. The implication is that it’s best if these women keep their mouths shut, because they’ll only be misconstrued or cause trouble.

The problem with Wine Country is not its loose structure or lack of narrative, but lack of understanding of women of a certain vintage. This film just makes me cross because the creators should know better. What went wrong? I don’t want to know.

Wine Country is a 2019 American comedy film produced and directed by Amy Poehler, and released on Netflix on May 10, 2019