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Netflix’s ‘Wine Country’ Feels Like a Chill Hangout Session With Six ‘SNL’ Greats

Streaming recommendations for the weekend and a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news

Wine Country/Netflix

This post originally appeared on May 10, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome back to Friday afternoon. Did you notice the disposable coffee cup on Game of Thrones? I really enjoyed the internet’s reactions to this flub, and especially Colbert’s fan theory about how the cup was an intentional addition to the scenery. Here are a few non-Westerosi recommendations for things to watch this weekend, including two recent arrivals on Netflix and a travel show featuring a food TV legend.

SNL MVPs reunite for a trip to Wine Country

Your enjoyment of Amy Poehler’s new feature-length comedy Wine Country may depend on whether or not you watched (and loved) SNL in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. That’s when the stars of this movie — Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, and Maya Rudolph — developed their chemistry together and effectively stole the comedy mantle away from the dudes who had dominated the show for the previous two and a half decades. As someone who watched every episode of this era, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these comedians playing versions of themselves on a boozy Napa Valley vacation in this new Netflix movie. The stakes are incredibly low throughout Wine Country, but what the film lacks in terms of story and character development, it makes up for in one-liners and broad physical comedy.

The plot, what little there is, focuses on five longtime friends celebrating a 50th birthday party for their pal Rebecca (Dratch) at a fancy Napa Valley AirBNB. The micro-manager of the group, Abby (Poehler), has arranged a series of splashy activities, including wine tastings, shopping sprees, dinners at trendy restaurants, and a surprise party involving a recreation of the Chicago pizzeria where they worked together many years ago. As you might expect, over the course of the weekend, the friends have a few breakthrough moments about their careers and personal lives once the wine starts flowing.

Hollywood has produced more than a few movies aboutgirls’ trips” over the last several years, but none of them present a world that’s quite as bougie as the one in Wine Country. The film could easily be part of the Nancy Meyers Cinematic Universe (NMCU). If you watched late night TV or read any blogs this week, you might have heard that it’s based on a series of vacations that the six stars of the film took together a few years ago. In real life, the comedians wined and dined their way around Sonoma, California, but in the film you get to see them booze it up at the majestic Artesa Winery in Los Carneros, and the equally bucolic Quintessa winery in Calistoga. Northern California wine country has never looked as good on screen as it does here.

While all of the former SNL cast members have memorable moments in the movie, two of the show’s former writers, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey, deliver my favorite performances in the film. As Val, a fun-loving antique store owner who brings a bag of high-tech vibrators on the trip, Pell exudes an infectious, giddy energy on screen. Meanwhile, Spivey, who co-wrote the script with former SNL colleague Liz Cackowski, quietly crushes her performances as Jenny, the jaded member of the group. There are delightful cameos a-plenty, including appearances by Cherry Jones as a tarot card reader that only predicts bad news, Tina Fey as an extremely forthright AirBNB host, Maya Erskine as a pretentious young artist, and Jason Schwartzman as the personal chef whose famous paella takes days (or maybe weeks!) to cook.

While watching the “Sandler Family Reunion” sketch on SNL last week, I was reminded of how many critically-panned, but commercially-successful movies Adam Sandler has made over the years with his bro-pals. Considering that Hollywood has funded literally dozens of these movies, I hope Poehler and her crew get to keep making as many of these breezy comedies about funny women as they want from now until the end of the streaming era, whenever that may be.

Wine Country is now available on Netflix, and it’s also playing at select theaters across the country this weekend.


Streaming recommendations du jour

Easy/Netflix

Easy, “Low Rolling Boil”

Watch it on: Netlflix

The gist: This episode of Joe Swanberg’s anthology series marks the end of a four-part saga about two friends who launch an artisan dog food business, and their spouses — a pair of brothers — who dive into the Chicago craft beer scene. It’s peak Yuppie Stuff, but the ensemble cast here really commits to this world and these characters in a way that makes this story compelling. In this last chapter, I especially admired the tense scenes between a beer bro portrayed by Dave Franco, and his long-suffering entrepreneur girlfriend played by Zazie Beetz. Although this episode wraps up a story that started two years ago, it also works on its own as a crunchy little indie drama.

Weekends With Yankee, “New England Celebrities”

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

The gist: If you’ve been wondering what O.G. celebrity chef Jacques Pepin has been up to recently, the answer is: gardening, foraging, painting, and cooking on his charming Connecticut estate. In this episode of PBS’s New England-centric travel show, co-host Amy Traverso goes mushroom hunting with the culinary legend, and they take their bounty back to his kitchen to prepare a lunch of mussels gratin and two varieties of seafood stew. After their meal, Pepin writes down their menu in a giant book where he has collected notes on all the great feasts of his life. It’s clear that at 83 years old, Pepin is still both an active chef and all-around charming fellow.


In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend, and if you’re looking for something vegetable-forward to cook at home, consider checking out Samin Nosrat’s interpretation of the green salad from Via Carota in NYC.

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