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Film Review: ‘Spin Me Round’ is a Comedic Misdirect and a Showcase for Alison Brie

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Watching talented women like Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza in almost anything is a pleasure. When they get to be offbeat and a little weird, even? All the better. A filmmaker like Jeff Baena recognizes this, having worked with Brie and Plaza multiple times before (he even married the latter). The result, this time around, is Spin Me Round, a comedy that periodically threatens to become a mystery, or even a thriller. Not every choice works here, but it’s clearly a take on this kind of story that only Baena and Brie (sharing script duties) could come up with. As messy as the film can sometimes be, it showcases a pair of wonderful performances, has some solid laughs, and is consistently weird in a manner that’s fairly endearing, overall.

Spin Me Round is potentially going to puzzle some viewers, especially if they’re not as familiar with Baena as others. A case could be made that this movie should even have been more absurd, or cut down on the weirdness, but it would have been a difference experience. Baena and Brie are going for something very specific here, and it’s hard not to admire them for the audacity of their cinematic vision.

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Amber (Brie) is the manager at the Bakersfield location of an American chain restaurant that bares a striking resemblance to Olive Garden. Informed that she’s won a contest to be included in the chain’s immersion program in Italy, under the guidance of company founder Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola), it seems like a dream come true. After all, Amber has never even left the country, so an all expenses paid trip to Italy sounds lovely. As soon as she arrives, alongside other managers like Deb (Molly Shannon), Jen (Ayden Mayeri), Susie (Debby Ryan), Dana (Zach Woods), and Fran (Tim Heidecker), things are a little off. They’re not staying at a villa, but a crummy hotel. Their guide Craig (Ben Sinclair) is a dud. Plus, they can’t leave the compound. Soon, however, Amber is about to swept up in quite the series of events.

Befriended by Nick’s assistant Kat (Aubrey Plaza), Amber learns that Nick has taken a shine to him. As she’s whisked off by Kat for meetings with Nick, others become suspicious. When Amber finds the situation just a bit too weird, she’s cut off in an instant. Determined to figure out what’s going on, she teams with Dana to get to the bottom of it all. Some very odd events ensue.

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Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza are the clear highlights here. The rest of the cast have their moments, including an amusingly offbeat Alessandro Nivola, but Brie and Plaza shine brightest. Brie is somewhat of the straight woman here, but her quicks come out in really fun ways. Her game attitude for a role like this, even if she co-wrote it, is great to see. As for Plaza, she soaks in the too cool for school part, making you wish this supporting role/extended cameo had even more to it. A little bit goes a long way with folks like Tim Heidecker and Molly Shannon, but you’ll want more of Plaza’s Kat. Supporting players include Fred Armison, Lil Rel Howery, Ego Nwodim, Lauren Weedman, and more.

Co-writer/director Jeff Baena has made a career being weird like this. Co-writing with Brie and directing, he keeps the visuals here simple, letting the simple absurdity of the comedy reign supreme. Now, there’s some lovely shots of Italy, but their script, as well as the two aforementioned performances, that are the true stars. The more Spin Me Round focuses on them, the better. In fact, one of its big mistakes is to essentially remove a supporting character from the narrative. They’re missed, to the point where it feels more like a glaring omission than a storytelling choice.

Spin Me Round will definitely amuse plenty of folks who seek it out. Some might just not be able to get around its oddness, but once you get on its wavelength, it’s a unique little comedy that always is threatening to be more. If not every swing connects, it’s hard not to appreciate the boldness of its choices, all in all. While it’s not for everyone, I for one am certainly game for more weirdness like this.

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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