Filmmaker Jeff Baena (THE LITTLE HOURS) has teamed up again with his HORSE GIRL co-writer and star Alison Brie (THE RENTAL; PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN; THE DISASTER ARTIST) to bring audiences a romcom-thriller mashup set in sunny Italy.
In SPIN ME ROUND, Brie plays Amber, the manager of a popular Italian restaurant in Bakersfield, California that’s akin to Olive Garden. In recognition of her hard work and dedication, she wins an all-expenses paid trip to a management retreat at the company’s beautiful “institute” located outside of Pisa, Italy, where she meets Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE; A MOST VIOLENT YEAR), the restaurant chain’s wealthy, handsome and charismatic founder. What starts out as a whirlwind romance in sunny Tuscany though, quickly spins out of control when Amber realises that neither Nick nor the retreat are what they’re cracked up to be.
There is the germ of a good story here but somehow it gets muddled up in a jumble of plot threads that never go anywhere, the most glaring of which involves Baena’s real-life wife, Aubrey Plaza (BLACK BEAR; CHILD’S PLAY, TV’s PARKS AND REC), whose comedic talents are completely wasted here. Plaza plays Nick’s assistant, Kat, and just as she and Amber start to bond, she disappears from the story never to be seen again. Nick tells Amber that he fired her but it just doesn’t sit well because Kat leaves Amber her copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s “News of a Kidnapping”. It would seem that either Baena and Brie didn’t know what to do with Kat or something ended up on the cutting room floor. This is the big problem with this film. Some parts are severely underwritten while others must have been overwritten and then edited out to keep the film’s running time down to a reasonable 104 minutes. When Amber checks into her room at the hotel (that, in itself, isn’t played up nearly enough), she finds that her door can’t lock. Although this is Amber’s first time out of the US, I’m sure she’s stayed in a hotel before. At the very least, she comes across as a fairly grounded person yet she doesn’t seem to be too fazed by this turn of events. Later on, well after someone breaks into her room at night, we see her using a chair to prop the door shut (though I doubt it would the way she did it) and then the matter never arises again. Similarly, one of her colleagues on the retreat twice makes mention that a celebrity chef who has come to the institute to teach the group a few very basic and completely unnecessary cooking tips, has disappeared but maybe she hasn’t. Maybe she was only contracted to be there for two days. People disappearing is a running thread throughout the story but Amber realises early on that no one (except Kat) has gone missing. They’re all there doing other things. Baena and Brie attempt to bring some wacky humour into the story with the addition of Deb (Molly Shannon, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN; TV’s SNL), another winner who, after losing her luggage, goes on a shopping spree in nearby Lucca and buys a bunch of outlandish outfits, which she wears in the classes while everyone else is wearing chef’s aprons. As they are store managers, not chefs, neither outfit makes a lot of sense. The class setting is where the story is underwritten and it shows when the jokes all land with thuds.
Judging from the film’s poster, which resembles the cover of a Harlequin novel, this is supposed to be a story about a whirlwind romance. I get that Baena and Brie wanted to throw in a few crazy, dark twists but it got the better of them and the film ended up being a massive train wreck. Given what went on in Italy, the film’s closing scene between Amber and Nick is completely illogical… but then so is the rest of the story.
SPIN ME ROUND is currently on limited release in some cinemas in the US. It is also available to rent or buy on a number of platforms in some markets. This dish needs to be sent back to the kitchen.
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