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Non-Review Review: Wine Country

Wine Country should be a slam dunk.

The appeal Wine Country lies in its central cast. Wine Country assembles an impressive selection of older female comedians and drops them into a fairly standard premise that should allow them room to bounce off one another and enjoy themselves. It is a tried and true comic formula, the unleashing of a set of comedic personas on a familiar plot, the sole purpose of that stock set-up being to avoid getting in the way of the chemistry and charm of the cast. Wine Country has quite the cast; Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey, along with supporting turns from Tina Fey and Cherry Jones. That should be enough to get any comedy half way home.

Toast of the town.

The actual plot of Wine Country is fairly simple as such things go, but this is a canny move. Wine Country is designed as a cast showcase, and so the plot’s primary function is to serve as justification for bringing (and keeping) these characters together so that the film can bounce from one scene to the next. Wine Country is the story of a group of friends who come together to celebrate a fiftieth birthday, traversing the eponymous region while each dealing with their own personal and professional crises. Character traits are arbitrary, and their arcs simplistic; in many cases, it seems like the characters were developed through nothing more than vague word association, a collection of generic adjectives (“busy”“immature”“obsessive”) thrown into a hat and selected at random.

While this does hold Wine Country back, it isn’t the biggest issue with the film. Quite simply, Wine Country is put together in a frustratingly clumsy and haphazard manner, looking a feeling like a cloying made-for-television movie that somehow stumbled upon a phenomenal cast. The film looks flat and over-lit, even allowing for the sunny Californian setting. Many of the jokes feel lazy and obvious, grabbing the lowest hanging fruit; perhaps appropriate given how much time the film spends in vineyards. The soundtrack is awful and on the nose, slowly and loudly suffocating any genuine emotion the film might attempt to evoke. There’s no doubt that the cast and crew making Wine Country had a great time making the film, but none of that carries over to the finished product.

‘Til the (fri)end of time.

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Non-Review Review: Bridesmaids

It’s kinda interesting. Bridesmaids opens over here a month or so after it does in the States, so I’ve had the opportunity to pick up quite a significant amount of chatter on the film, as a good film tends to attract on the information super highway. Most of the discussion around the film has been centred around the movie’s gross-out humour, with reviews branding it as The Hangover in heels”or some such, and a great deal of discussion focusing on the fact that it demonstrates women can do that sort of disgusting and crass physical comedy. Such a discussion seems to be just a little bit over-the-top, as the movie really only features three absurdly crass set pieces (one of which admittedly opens the film, another competes with anything else in a comedy this year, and the third is tucked away in the credits) – so much so I doubt anyone would bat their eye if the same level of juvenile conduct were contained in a film about a bunch of dudes. It’s a damn shame that this seems to monopolise the conversation on Bridesmaids, because it’s actually just a really good film.

Maids of honour?

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Non-Review Review: Baby Mama

Baby Mama is effectively a “buddy” chick flick. Indeed, considering that the bulk of buddy guy flicks – like Lethal Weapon or The Expendables – are about guys doing stereotypically “macho” stuff (grrr… explosions and guns and fights and stuff!!!), it’s perhaps appropriate that this movie pairs off its two leads doing something stereotypically “feminine” (awww…. babies and maternal instincts and things…). The premise and the message of the movie are difficult to get a hold of (it by turns mocks and reinforces a conventional liberal perspective, particularly in its portrayal of class conflicts), but works at its best when it lets its two tremendously talented leads time and room to work – there’s a reason that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are competing against each other for that Emmy this year. Despite its fairly heavy subject matter, the movie arguably finds its feet as a conventional “odd couple” comedy – which is a shame, as that’s only one of many things it’s juggling.

Guess which one's white trash...

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Non-Review Review: Date Night

Date Night is a perfectly okay film (okay, maybe a tinsy bit better than “perfectly okay”, but “a tinsy bit better than than a perfectly okay film” just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as it should). It essentially coasts off its deliciously old-school comedy-of-errors premise and the charisma of its two leading actors (plus their ensemble of cameo! friends), while never really trying too hard or ever really hitting a note of pitch perfect comic genius. There are no lines you’ll be quoting to yourself for weeks afterwards (except maybe “kill shot!” every time somebody tilts their sideways gun at you – but I’ll assume that doesn’t happen too often).

Their date night is about to become a late night...

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