CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! The central character of writer/director Jeff Baena’s comedy, Spin Me Round, reminded me of the lyrics from Journey’s classic rock ballad Don’t Stop Believing: “Just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world, she took the midnight train going anywhere.” Co-writer Alison Brie stars as Amber, a lonely woman from Bakersfield, California, but instead of taking a train, she wins an all-expenses paid trip to Italy from her Italian-chain restaurant job.
The stellar cast consisting of Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Woods, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, and comedian Lil Rel Howery gave me high hopes for coming in that I was in store for some laughs, or at least a cheesy good time. Italy is also one of my favorite places I’ve ever traveled to, so the film has to feature some gorgeous scenery, right? It gives me no pleasure to say that I was wrong on both accounts. There are a couple of little flashes of humor brought mainly by Alessandro Nivola as a narcissistic seduction artist named Nick (who just so happens to own the restaurant chain she works for) and Woods essentially playing his expressive, simplistic yet intelligent Silicon Valley character and a couple of nice locations, but nothing memorable.
The story kicks into gear when Amber, a manager for nine years at Tuscan Grove (an Olive Garden-like restaurant), is informed by her district manager (Rey Henry) that she’s been selected for a trip to Italy as part of an immersion program. Amber FaceTimes with her best friend, Emily (Ego Nwodim), and they get giddy about the prospect of Amber possibly finding love overseas.
“…a lonely woman from Bakersfield, California…wins an all-expenses paid trip to Italy…”
Next, Amber meets the other winners of the trip, who all have their own little quirks. For example, Deb (Shannon) is obsessed over her lost luggage, but not in a funny way. Once in Italy, they stay in a cheap-looking motel with no view (except of dumpsters) and have their training in a bland conference room. Its little things like that sadly symbolize the essence of Spin Me Round, where the potential for hilarity and exotic locations is replaced by annoyance and the mundane.
The title likely symbolizes the ride that Amber goes on when she’s seduced by both Nick and Plaza as his eccentric assistant, but it could also represent the audience’s expectations being spun around, which would be fine if the movie actually worked. Nick is primarily drawn to Amber romantically because she reminds him of his deceased sister, and no one finds that incredibly odd (including Amber), yet the strangeness of it isn’t played for laughs.
I adore Plaza as a unique and magnetic actor, but she wasn’t given enough to work with here. Likewise, for the usual affable yet conflicted characters that Brie is so good at portraying, there’s not enough meat on the bones of the role here for her to sink her teeth into. Spin Me Round is like going out to dinner and expecting an authentic Italian restaurant but instead ending up at the Olive Garden.
Spin Me Round screened at the 2022 Cinequest Film Festival.
"…like going out to dinner and expecting an authentic Italian restaurant but instead ending up at the Olive Garden."