Jeff Baena and Alison Brie’s latest collaboration’s big laughs make up for its unevenness.
Amber’s (Alison Brie) dead-eyed stare in the opening montage of Spin Me Round tells you everything you need to know about where she’s at in life. She’s the manager of a fast-casual “Italian” restaurant, and from what we see about how they make the alfredo sauce, the quotes are very much warranted. Her life is small and dull and she’s secretly ready and hoping for an adventure to sweep her off her feet. When Amber wins a trip to Tuscany, the film doesn’t take her or the audience on the journey you’d expect, which creates something of a mess for everyone.
Spin Me Round is playful with its tone and genre from start to finish, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since it’s a reteaming of writer/director Jeff Baena (The Little Hours, Horse Girl) and Brie, who’s also his co-writer. Unfortunately, their efforts here feel rougher around the edges than usual. As it dances from romance to travel diary to workplace comedy to twisting thriller to feminist thinkpiece, you can’t help but wonder if another draft wouldn’t have brought it all together. The mixing of genres isn’t inherently the problem. It’s the fact that Baena and Brie don’t seem to be sure of what they want to say with it all.
Thankfully, Baena stacks his cast with comedic heavy hitters, including Molly Shannon, Tim Heidecker, Fred Armisen, and, of course, wife and frequent co-collaborator Aubrey Plaza. Rather than scene-stealing, it’s as if the entire cast merely passes the torch from one to another. Whether it’s self-titled and self-obsessed “foodie” Fran’s (Heidecker) clueless bragging or Dana’s (Zach Woods) earnest love of the Olive Garden–wannabe they all work for, there are more than enough laughs to get you through as the plot starts to veer off the rails.
[T]he sloppiness of the plotting could drag the entire production down, [but] the humor acts as a current, pulling you forward.
When Amber meets the company’s CEO, Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola), she’s immediately smitten. But as Amber falls for Nick, she also gets to know his assistant Kat (Plaza). Unfortunately, while Baena’s direction plays up the fantasy of the tryst well, it can’t overcome a central problem. As viewers watch these relationships play out side by side, Kat and Amber are clearly the more captivating duo. The film, however, rushes through its development and treats it as second fiddle to Amber and Nick.
This impulse is emblematic of the main issue with the script, which is that it’s constantly unsure of what to prioritize. It’s torn by either trying to give equal weight to interactions that don’t deserve it or making the wrong assumption about which piece of the story has a hold on the audience.
Where, in other films, the sloppiness of the plotting could drag the entire production down, the humor acts as a current, pulling you forward. But that only helps until the conclusion, which falls apart in the most unsatisfying way.
The final scene is a head-scratcher, one that seems divorced from the rest of the film, as if it were the last moment of a completely different movie. It begs you to rewrite it all in your head, searching for where Baena and Brie could have gone with the script to make it all feel worthwhile. But the sour taste it leaves isn’t reason enough to avoid the whole endeavor. There are too many brilliant moments of humor to skip it. We’ll just have to hope that the next Baena picture gets enough time to fully bake before hitting the screen.
Spin Me Round reminds you if you’re here, you’re family in theatres beginning on Friday, August 19.