Alison Brie and Jeff Baena’s latest is a problematic misfire.
Spin Me Round is the fourth collaboration between co-writer/star Alison Brie and co-writer/director Jeff Baena, and is now streaming and in select theaters after a SXSW premiere. Like their previous films, Spin Me Round features a star-studded comedic ensemble with the likes of Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Zach Woods, Ayden Mayeri, Ben Sinclair, Tim Heidecker, Debby Ryan, and Lil Rey Howery, who are out to push the boundaries of good taste in favor of some laughs. The bleak romantic comedy is an odd mashup of the rumored extramarital activities of an Iron Chef Bobby Flay-esque character, but if he was the face and founder of an Olive Garden-style restaurant. The big food chain adds a retail service industry layer of satire that is just as scathingly uncomfortable as the romantic angle explored.
Brie stars as Amber, the starry eyed, love-lorn manager of a Tuscan Grove franchise. After the owner submitted a two-page essay, she was picked to go on a managerial retreat in Italy at a picturesque villa. When Amber arrives in Italy and promptly has her passport confiscated by her sleazy Tuscan Grove chaperone, we begin to surmise things aren’t going to go quite as she expected. Baena continues to up the tension as the impressionable young manager is singled out by the much older owner and face of the company, the charismatic and lecherous Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola), to skip her managerial day-to-day in Italy and to spend time with him on his yacht. It almost goes about how’d you expect until Amber—thanks to Nick’s assistant (Aubrey Plaza)—sees through her rose-colored glasses to understand how Nick has a habit of using his age and power to groom the young managers who frequent these retreats.
Your mileage will probably vary on Spin Me Round, depending on how troubled you are by its rather problematic relationship at the core of the narrative. While Amber does eventually wise up, we as an audience are still tasked with enduring as she sparks us another relationship with his assistant. The comedic nature of the narrative attempts to soften these thorny edges, but it’s still a tense watch compared to Brie and Baena’s more straight comedic forays that lean more into the ridiculous for their laughs. The film overall is uneven, and some set pieces and payoffs work better than others; the ending falls flat as it attempts to pay off a film’s worth of foreshadowing with an arsenal of Chekov’s guns. The sole redeeming quality is Brie and Plaza’s chemistry—the two play off one another and a almost give the film a relationship that isn’t a complete toxic dumpster fire.
Spin Me Round isn’t a complete misfire, but it does feel a bit uninspired and uneven compared to The Little Hours or Horse Girl, which both felt a bit more ambitious and steady in their ideas and execution. Brie and Plaza singularly make this film endurable with their banter and awkward comedic timing that attempts to add some levity to a series of problematic situations, but doesn’t really disarm the workplace harassment that drives this film. Sure, Amber rises above, as expected, but first we have to witness her falling into the trap and then watch all her coworkers suffer the same fate. Spin Me Round may be the least entertaining of Brie and Baena’s collaborations as it tries, and fails, to comedically disarm its ticking time bomb of a premise.