Synopsis: When an American chain restaurant manager is selected to attend a special training program in Italy, her head swims with the dreams of European glamour and romance. But the trip turns out to be much different – possibly more dangerous – than the exotic getaway she imagines.
Stars: Alison Brie, Alessandro Nivola, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Zach Woods, Ayden Mayeri, Ben Sinclair, Tim Heidecker, Debby Ryan, Fred Armisen
Director: Jeff Baena
Running Length: 104 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: In my previous career, I filmed several commercials and print ads involving food; one thing was always the same. If it was hot food, to make it look good on camera, it had to be cold and vice versa. Think about that next time you see someone chomp down on a juicy burger because it’s likely ice cold. On paper, Spin Me Round looks hot. Great cast, a beautiful location, a broad comic set-up that could go in many different directions, and a score by the legendary Pino Donaggio (Carrie, Blow Out, etc.). So how does it wind up being a frustratingly chilly and uneven non-starter that persistently leads the viewer toward a joke that never pays off?
After 2020’s Horse Girl, star Alison Brie and director Jeff Baena team up again. Their peculiar script sends Brie’s restaurant leader at a popular chain (think Olive Garden) off to Italy for a manager’s training at the posh villa of the company’s founder (Alessandro Nivola, Jurassic Park III). She fantasizes about finding love but instead winds up in a rundown hotel on the property with a handful of other eccentric regional representatives, including one played by Molly Shannon (Promising Young Woman), dependably using her schtick to deliver energy to some very dry sections. When Brie’s character is romanced by both the head of the company and his mysterious, alluring assistant (a, well, mysteriously alluring Aubrey Plaza), it lights a fuse for an explosive conclusion to an otherwise humdrum week.
Baena stacks the film with names that usually carry full supporting comedic roles on their shoulders, but when asked to spread that wealth around, no one seems to know how to be specific with their minor screen time. Married to Baena in real life, Plaza’s appearance feels more like a favor to her groom than anything else. After her recent electric turn in Emily the Criminal (get that one on your list right away), I want to see a Plaza performance that pushes back against what we already know she can do. Her role as an aloof assistant is a coasting performance, which is fine if you want the paycheck, but it’s more the fault of underdeveloped writing than anything.
The film works best when Brie and Zach Woods (as another manager) team up to figure out the true motive behind the company gathering of the managers, but it’s so far into this strange voyage that I already had my bags packed and ready to depart. I’ve come around to Brie after solid showings on the Netflix series GLOW and in The Rental, written and directed by her husband, Dave Franco. While her work with Baena tends toward the off-kilter quirk, it never finds a consistently humorous note to hit, much less a funny bone to poke. Spin Me Round needed another trip around the rewrite table.
Reviewed initially at SXSW.