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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Spin Me Round: Review

Spin Me Round Synopsis: When the manager of an Italian restaurant chain wins the opportunity to attend the franchise’s educational immersion program in Italy, what she thought would be a romantic getaway devolves into chaos and catastrophe.

A straight-laced manager at a generic Italian restaurant chain undergoes an unexpectedly wild work retreat in Spin Me Round. Writer/director Jeff Baena may not be a household name yet, but the auteur is already someone well-entrenched on my movie radar. With clever features like Horse Girl and Joshy, Baena reinvented the fundamentals of breezy, mumblecore indies in exciting new contexts. There is something fascinating about Baena’s work; his films always feel like they are in a constant state of evolution as his character undergoes unexpectedly complex journeys of self-discovery.

With Spin Me Round, Baena jampacks a cast of all-star comedic talents in a romp through the seedy practices of a generic restaurant chain. The journey is a fascinating and sharp odyssey through human artificiality, even if the final product can’t quite capitalize on its intriguing thematic conceits.

The set-up here is frankly brilliant. After widdling away at the fictional equivalent of a low-rent Olive Garden, our protagonist Amber sees an upcoming work retreat as a much-needed relaxation opportunity. Instead, the trip confronts her with the oppressive artifice existing on the surface of her dead-end job. Amber and her peers of vapid managers spend the trip stuck on a loop of corporate practices, whether they’re learning the traditions of Italian cuisine despite the restaurants’ soullessly manufactured products or enduring haphazardly constructed meet-and-greet exercises.

Baena and star/co-screenwriter Allison Brie mine equal measures of humor and thought from their concept. The script constantly plays with viewers’ expectations as Spin Me Round descends into a farce of the wistful fantasies we aspire to achieve – and oftentimes the unfulfilling reality that confronts us in its place. Similar to their screenwriting effort with Horse Girl, Brie and Baena embrace an aimless narrative approach that fits its material like a glove. It’s impressive how seamlessly the film wrestles with concepts without having to structure its conceits rigidly.

Ultimately, Spin Me Round works best as an uproarious showcase for its talented comedic ensemble. Baena directs the film like a veteran composer – offering subdued guidance while trusting his multitude of talents to play their parts skillfully. Tim Heidecker is hilariously aloof as an egotistical manager; Zach Woods taps into his distinctively manic edge as someone discovering the retreat’s nefarious practices; Molly Shannon conjures a magnetic force of nature performance as a self-centered Karen, and Alessandro Nivola imbues charisma into the restaurant chain owner’s quietly pathetic insecurities. All of these quirky personas are thankfully grounded by Brie’s immense talent. The actress carries equal measures of snark and humanity into Amber’s everywoman persona.

Spin Me Round kept me wholly entranced – until the overdone third act. Baena and Brie transform the humorous yet modest tonal approach into outright farce territory once a big plot reveal comes into play. For me, this decision ends up spelling out the film’s undertones in a clunky manner beset with hit-or-miss pratfalls. The finale, thankfully, feels satisfying enough, but I can’t help feeling that the script could have assembled an even more deft and compelling statement.

I still had a blast with Spin Me Round and its unique comedic approach. Baena and Brie craft a well-composed comedy that possesses more bite than what may appear at the surface.

Spin Me Round is now playing on VOD and on AMC+


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