August 25, 2022

SCREEN | 'Spin Me Round' Travels Under the Tuscan Grove

"Is this the part where we kiss?"
Alison Brie Molly Shannon Aubrey Plaza Jeff Baena | Spin Me Round
IFC Films / Limelight
Director Jeff Baena and his frequent collaborator Alison Brie (co-writer and producer) continue their string of offbeat indie comedies in the Italian-set romantic comedy thriller, Spin Me Round. Set on a corporate training retreat where franchise managers of an Olive Garden-esque chain restaurant ("Tuscan Grove") meet and mingle before stumbling upon some very strange happenings that culminate in a giallo horror-inspired climax.

Two of the more notable performances come from Alessandro Nivola and Aubrey Plaza (Baena's wife) co-starring as Grove's narcissistic founder/CEO and his sinister assistant both enamoured with Brie's eager Amber who struggles to set boundaries. Among the other restaurant managers, Molly Shannon, Tim Heidecker, Zach Woods, and Ben Sinclair populate the group of everyday weirdos who might work for a corporate dining brand.

Much of the film seems like an antidote to cinematic travelogues (think Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat Pray Love) where an unfulfilled middle-aged protagonist is whisked away to an idyllic foreign locale to find themselves through dining, culture, and romance. Baena frames things as a quirky vacation comedy before moving into a more sexually-charged vibe (think Eyes Wide Shut) when Amber enters an opulent party full of seedy but rich strangers. Certainly, the mystery elements suggest something suspicious in a contrast to the comforting decor of a Bakersfield location of an Italian chain restaurant.

It's admirable how Baena and Brie go for it in their genre mashup. Not everything works as Spin Me Round mixes so many strange tones or undercooked elements from an initially conventional female-focused international rom-com premise to flirting with an erotic thriller before teasing an all-out European slasher finale.

Spin Me Round is available to stream on AMC+ and through video on demand.

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