REVIEW: Spin Me Round [2022]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 104 minutes
    Release Date: August 19th, 2022 (USA)
    Studio: IFC Films / AMC+
    Director(s): Jeff Baena
    Writer(s): Jeff Baena & Alison Brie

You seem so open-minded.

The last thing Amber (Alison Brie) expected when coming into work as manager of Bakersfield, CA’s popular Tuscan Grove, an Olive Garden-esque shingle of minimum wage employees squeezing microwaved alfredo sauce onto linguine, was an all-expenses paid “retreat” to Italy. It’s what she got, though, courtesy of her location’s owner (Lil Rel Howery‘s Paul) submitting her name to the exclusive managerial team building week annually held by TG’s charismatic CEO and face of the franchise, Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola). Having just broken up with a toxic boyfriend of many years, Amber’s BFF Emily (Ego Nwodim) hopes this can be her roommate’s romantic reset. They joke that maybe she’ll even be seduced by Nick himself. Well, sometimes the fantasy doesn’t even scratch the surface of what reality can bring.

Director Jeff Baena and Brie (who co-writes) have concocted a warped little curio of absurdity with Spin Me Round. From idyllic possibilities to too-good-to-be-true passion to you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it farce, they put Amber through a wringer of emotions all while teasing what we know is coming yet can never anticipate just how it will arrive. Because we see Nick’s game the moment that he enters the cooking session being taught by in-house chef Liz Bence (Lauren Weedman). He looks around the room, ignores the two male participants (Zach Woods‘ Dana and Tim Heidecker‘s Fran), and proceeds to give Amber, Susie (Debbie Ryan), and Jen (Ayden Mayeri) kisses on the cheeks before complimenting Deb’s (Molly Shannon) hands. And with a look to his assistant Kat (Aubrey Plaza), he selects his prey.

Cue the weirdness because, suave or not, Nick is something else. Dealing with Deb’s over-zealous yearning to fit in and Fran’s pathological need to feel important is one thing, learning that the romantic love interest of the film’s lead character is unhinged is another. It’s easy to go with the flow, though. Amber really likes him. His attention lowers her guard to throw caution to the wind and see what happens. Who cares if he starts asking strangely personal, non-sequitur questions? Who cares if his interest seems to stem from the fact that he thinks she looks uncannily like someone he used to know? Who cares if, after making out, he finally admits that this someone is his dead sister? Maybe Amber should care about that last one.

You probably won’t believe me when I say it, but that revelation is the tamest and most obvious of the bunch. It must be considering this comedic fairy tale starts feeling a bit sinister from the moment Craig (Ben Sinclair‘s group chaperone) asks for passports upon picking each up from the airport. Not only can they not leave the country, but he also sets a curfew and forbids them from leaving the hotel premises unless it’s for a sanctioned group field trip. Kat has her ways to secretly shuffle Amber out for rendezvouses with Nick, but even those possess a darkness thanks to the former’s visible annoyance with her boss. From there it’s unwarranted advances (from men and women alike) and the sudden disappearances of Amber’s fellow managers.

I’ll stop there as far as narrative is concerned because the pathways Baena and Brie take Amber down are as if they brainstormed the wildest impulses a regular person would have upon inexplicably finding themselves caught within a high stakes murder mystery fueled by sex and money. Would they go along with it and adopt a “What happens in Italy, stays in Italy” mentality? Would they unravel completely from fear and anxiety as assumptions spiral out of control? Or would they put their foot down and vow to put a stop to whatever was happening, no matter the risk to their own lives? Luckily, you can afford to lose a couple characters and still have enough to let all three of those options run their respective courses simultaneously.

The genre hopping that results might give you whiplash, but in the best way. Baena is knifing through the plot with sharp cuts from danger to incredulity or flirtation to confusion. He’s humorously leading us towards extremes with the sole goal of subverting our expectations, leaning on a rag-tag bunch of eccentrics with their own unique set of character flaws to augment each course of deflection to its farthest point before finally pulling back the curtain. And Amber is the only person with a level enough head to see something fishy and allow it to be fishy without any knee-jerk gymnastics trying to trick herself into believing there must be another explanation. Sometimes there is, but she’ll stick to her guns regardless to force it out.

It’s a fun performance that lets Brie shine. She’s just as great as the enamored lover living a dream as she is the paranoid outlier jumping to far-fetched conclusions that don’t seem so far-fetched considering she’s surrounded by narcissistic lunatics. Plaza provides an underrated equal who sadly disappears out of necessity to the script before Woods effectively takes over as a personified sounding board who constantly reminds us how much we miss the former despite his comparable success. And Nivola steals almost every scene he’s in with an impressive level of self-mockery, his dashing Prince Charming earnestly exposing himself as an emotionally stunted man-child too unused to being rejected to realize he’s in desperate need of therapy. He just wants everyone to have a good time—his way.

Some of the managers do too (although mostly by avoiding Nick’s desires). And those that don’t ultimately find the experience memorable at least. With a climax as random and tonally bizarre as what Spin Me Round provides: nobody is leaving the theater without an opinion. The same goes for Amber. We must wonder, however, whether that opinion will think that it wasn’t all bad or that it was even worse. The epilogue can feel a bit tacked on considering the adrenaline rush that preceded it, but it is a crucial piece that ties the whole together by showing us why circuses leave town. That much chaos and excitement cannot be sustained. It quickly becomes overwhelming, and enjoyment devolves into discomfort. Always know when to get off the ride.

[1] Alison Brie as “Amber” in Jeff Baena’s SPIN ME ROUND. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.
[2] Alessandro Nivola as “Nick” and Aubrey Plaza as “Kat”” in Jeff Baena’s SPIN ME ROUND. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.
[3] Debby Ryan as “Susie,” Zach Woods as “Dana,” Alison Brie as “Amber” and Ayden Mayeri as “Jen” in Jeff Baena’s SPIN ME ROUND. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

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