Most of us dream of jetting off to a luxurious winery tour or vineyard vacay, but it’s not everyone’s thing. That conflict is at the heart of IFC Films’ new comedy, Pretty Problems, in which Sonoma wine country takes a leading role.
Directed by Kestrin Pantera, the film follows married couple Lindsay (Britt Rentschler) and Jack (Michael Tennant) who, amid relationship and career challenges, accept an invitation for a Sonoma weekend getaway with billionaires Cat (J.J. Nolan) and Matt Flax (Graham Outerbridge) along with a gaggle of other well-heeled vacationers. It becomes clear that Lindsay is more excited than Jack about the lavish escapades, from a wine tasting to a murder-mystery night to a high-end shaman session. Can their relationship survive the unexpected stresses of extravagance?!
We’re not giving away any spoilers, but we can tell you how the movie landed in Sonoma. Tennant, who co-wrote the film with Rentschler and another co-star, Charlotte Ubben, had access to a wine estate owned by fans of films he’d previously produced. (You’ll have to take your clues from the film, because the winery’s identity thus far remains a secret.)
“I’ve always been taken with Sonoma,” Tennant told Wine Spectator via email, noting that he and Rentschler started developing the story over a bottle of rosé. “It’s gorgeous there, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a great winery.”
Indeed, during production, the film’s team even spent time at a few others, including Bricoleur, Flowers and Macrostie. Sampling the local fare and scouting locations wasn’t the team’s only research. Tennant spent considerable time studying the work and experiences of sommeliers, gaining insight into the wine industry, plus a few wine-tasting jokes. (Incidentally, Tennant’s next film is a comedy centered on Master Sommelier examinees.)
“Sonoma was our greatest star,” said Rentschler. “The landscape speaks volumes and represented the kind of textured, aspirational abundance that we wanted our characters to fall in love with.” Local businesses and restaurants catered the Pretty Problems set, and eco-focused producer Kind of Wild and Russian River Valley’s DuMol offered bottles for filming. But wine wasn’t just a prop for Pretty Problems.
“[Wine] is such a fascinating world and fun conversation,” said Ubben, who argues that the wine-filled scenes are the film’s funniest and best. “Since so much of the film was improvised, it gave us all so much to play with and became a character in the movie.”
Rentschler and Tennant explained that wine is central to the film’s core theme: looking beyond price tags and brand names to find experiences that are authentically meaningful. “[This] can very much be at the heart of passionate winemaking,” said Rentschler, “and certainly at the heart of sharing a bottle with those you love.” The duo hopes that Pretty Problems will add to Northern California’s acclaim and attraction, especially given challenges the region has faced recently.
“A review we received at [South by Southwest] called it ‘the Millennial Sideways,’” said Tennant. “I can’t begin to tell you how much of a compliment that is.”
Pretty Problems opens in U.S. theaters Oct. 7.
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