There hasn’t been a mainstream American comedy as perfect as Bridesmaids since, well, Bridesmaids. The 2011 film about a series of pre-wedding events gone horribly wrong struck gold with the chemistry of its cast, and made comic stars of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy. In my mind, no blockbuster comedy film has yet to match the particular magic of these performers, nor the gleeful, witty, broad script, though many have tried.
The latest attempt is Wine Country, Netflix’s improv-heavy road trip flick following a tight friendship group of six women on the brink of turning 50 as they head to Napa Valley, California, for a boozy girls’ weekend. Directed by (and starring) Amy Poehler, the cast includes Rudolph, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch. The building blocks are the same: great comic talent, a high-pressure trip, strained but ultimately loving friendships, and way too much wine.
But of course, this is not Bridesmaids 2.0. It’s looser, and more meandering: as the women wind around the rural roads of the Napa hills, so do their digressive conversations. There are pacing issues: some scenes drag – such as a morning that attempts to mine comedy from the women’s wince-inducing, wearying hangovers; or a climactic moment that sees all six individually tumble down a hill, one after the other. Poehler and Fey are surprisingly subdued, taking on straighter roles that lack the absurdity and surprise of their best performances. But Rudolph and Dratch are a joy to watch, especially in the rare moments they have to themselves: such as one funny scene involving a back injury and a family of raccoons. Their dry charm helps the more sour notes slide down almost unnoticed. All in all, it’s a drinkable, if at times indulgent, affair.
This article appears in the 15 May 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Return of the Irish question