It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why “Wine Country” doesn’t work nearly as well as it should. Maybe it’s that the screenplay isn’t all that interesting, and that most of the movie’s best moments seem improvised. Maybe it’s that there’s a lot of forced melodrama that doesn’t really add much, but forces you to think about how the movie isn’t working as much as it wants to. Either way, despite a dream cast of hilarious performers, first-time director (and co-star) Amy Poehler seems lost here: There are many strange and distracting shots and frames, while plot points are introduced then dropped as though they didn’t happen, and you’re left wondering if some shots ended up on the cutting room floor. Poehler has palpable reverence for her cast but can’t seem to get a firm grasp of narrative continuity, which makes the characters feel artificial and paper-thin, overly relying on each performer’s personal charm and natural charisma. Paula Pell has a number of terrific moments, as does Maya Rudolph, but even the funniest laughs here are kinda negligible. Overall it’s not that great but it’s not terrible, it’s just sort of mediocre, which is terribly disappointing given the pedigree in front of the camera.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)