Wine Country is described as Sideways meets Bridesmaids, so obviously I was instantly intrigued when it popped up on my Netflix last week. This movie boasted some big names, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Emily Spivey, and Maya Rudolph.
The basic premise of the movie is simple: six long-term female best friends go on a 50th birthday getaway to “wine country”; in this case, Napa, California. Of course, too much wine is drunk and hilarity and drama ensues.
I think it is important to first note the significance of this film from a feminist perspective. It features successful women over 50, with strong personalities and real life problems, including those that come with being a lesbian woman over 50. The film saw women in situations men have been glorifying themselves in for generations; for example, discussing classic rock, being vulgar together, and being so hungover you can’t remember the night before. It was refreshing to see women acting and playing out their genuine selves. Having big names from the comedy industry guarantees that this movie will be a laugh, which it is. Even better is that it’s an accurate portrayal of female friendships and personalities.
That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that the movie was kind of a glorification of wealthy white women’s lifestyles and problems with a not-very-stimulating plot line. Turns out I wasn’t wrong because in an interview with The View, Poehler says the movie is based on a true story and that the women in the film are also close friends in real life who had in fact gone to Napa for one of their 50th birthdays. While this does bring a sense of genuineness to the film, it definitely still panders to a very specific audience. (That is, white, upper or upper middle-class women.)
On top of that, I couldn’t help but feel like this movie relied on the audience already knowing the cast. Just like all the inside jokes featured, the movie itself is an inside joke, for a very specific cast of white women. Could they really not find a single person of colour around 50 funny enough to also be in this film? I find that unlikely and just plain lazy. If we want to celebrate successful women in middle age then why not make it inclusive?
Taking a step back, one can say that we shouldn’t demand that filmmakers force a “token” POC character just to slap a diversity sticker onto their work — it should be a natural inclusion. Which makes me wonder about our comedy industry as a whole: is it segregated? Or do we have a blend of comedians coming together? If not, why not use the space to try something new and see what blossoms?
Social politics aside, I was definitely laughing at some points. I do love a good Amy Poehler / Tina Fey flick and I will admit I fangirled a little over Brené Brown’s appearance in the film. But I am a white girl. In the end, I am torn. In certain ways, this movie is progressive and takes a step beyond just comedic social critic. It represents women over 50 in comical, casual situations so in this way, for a certain demographic, it is empowering.