Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

Writer/director Jeff Baena has quietly developed an incredibly talented group of performers with whom he collaborates repeatedly and he reunites some of the cast of his “The Little Hours” and “Horse Girl” for his most loosely constructed film to date, the travel comedy “Spin Me Round,” a film with some fun performances and great scenes, but a sense that it doesn’t quite all add up to what it could have with a bit more refinement in writing or editing. This a modest character study masquerading as a wacky European comedy, and it doesn’t quite gel enough as either. It’s best approached as a fun hang-out movie with a great cast. Almost like the mediocre chain restaurant food that its heroine serves, it’s better if one can just enjoy it on its own terms instead of imagining what it might have been with a revised recipe.

The always-great Brie plays Amber, a manager of a chain restaurant in California called Tuscan Grove, an Olive Garden-style establishment wherein the white sauce on the Fettucine Alfredo is squirted out of a tube instead of simmered in a pan. She is informed that she’s one of the best managers in the Tuscan Grove dynasty and that honor has awarded her a trip to Italy to learn about the many culinary delicacies that have been imported and simplified at her restaurant. She will be wined and dined, and possibly even meet the charismatic founder and CEO Nick, played with charming idiocy by Alessandro Nivola. Looking for romance, Amber hopes she gets “Under the Tuscan Sun.” She does not.

First, there’s the goofy array of fellow Tuscan Grove employees on the trip, including the troubled Deb (Molly Shannon), egotistical Fran (Tim Heidecker), and exuberant Dana (the very funny Zach Woods). And then Amber meets Nick’s assistant Kat (Aubrey Plaza), who clearly targets our heroine as someone to bring to Nick’s boat for a romantic escapade. Who is Kat exactly? We can tell we can’t trust Nick, but why? And where exactly is all of this going?

“Spin Me Round” is a slow-burn comedy, best appreciated in moments along Amber’s journey like the awkward seduction by Nick, a crazy night with Kat, or a shared paranoia with Dana. Brie is a great collaborator, eager to find different energies for each scene while also keeping Amber consistent. She’s really underrated. However, this film doesn’t quite know what to do with this complex character. It’s the kind of movie that starts down an interesting road like the forming dynamic between Amber and Kat, only to get distracted by something else. It feels so loosely assembled that it kind of comes apart by the time it’s over, like an Olive Garden meal that’s reasonably satisfying while eating it and totally forgotten the next day.

By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.