By Webster Tilton

I rationalized it thusly; someone on my Netflix account had already watched it, so Netflix already thinks I watched it. Also, there was nothing else new on Netflix. Thus, I watched ‘Wine Country’, a rated-R ‘gal pal’ comedy about group of women who go to Nappa Valley for a 50th birthday weekend.

My verdict: Even though it’s trying too hard 60% of the time, this movie doesn’t suck. If you’re middle aged (or getting there) you’ll understand where this movie is coming from and you might enjoy it. If not, don’t waste your time.

A generation specific movie needs to be damned good to appeal outside its target demographic. And despite the high production value, the good casting and the beautiful scenery, this one doesn’t really get there.

So, what went wrong? Instead of trying to be its own thing, this movie tried to be ‘The Office’ with a group of drunk women in their late forties. In the spirit of full disclosure, I hated The Office, and I hate awkward humor in general. But even then, I recognized that it was a really good show. What they did, they did extremely well, and you didn’t see it coming. Wine Country has an annoying tendency to telegraph its punches and only a few of them land with any kind of a sting.

What went right? The people in charge knew what they were doing. Amy Pohler, who directed and starred, convincingly nailed the part of the neurotic but well-intentioned group leader who tries way too hard to ram a good time down everyone’s throat. Rachel Dratch (SNL) likewise bullseyes her role as self-neglecting therapist who nevertheless has the clearest and sharpest mind of the entire group. The beats are predictable but still well done.

Ingeneral, the film does a good job addressing the anxieties of aging and manages not to pander with one exception; there’s a really glaring and off-putting product placement spot at the beginning, where Netflix cross-promotes another show that they produced. It was mercifully short but nevertheless it gave me a sinking feeling that we’re going to see more of that kind of crap.

Broadly speaking I don’t despise product placement, unless it takes me out of the movie, and this one did. It felt like the movie got put on pause for thirty seconds for a commercial and it reminded me of the Ghostbusters reboot.

I didn’t feel like it stole two hours of my life but it’s also not good enough to make a special effort to carve out two hours of a busy schedule. Watch this one if you’re bored and you don’t feel like actually going out and doing something. And you’re middle aged. Or getting there.

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