Directed by Jeff Baena, Spin Me Round is a 2022 comedy film starring and co-written by Alison Brie (with Jeff Baena) following a woman who wins an all-expenses-paid trip to a company's institute outside of Florence. The film continues the ever-morphing nature of director Jeff Baena and writer-actor Alison Brie's filmmaking careers, wherein they merge heady ideas with more conventional comedy setups. Every time they have a new project, I'm interested in how successful it will be because I see a lot of potential in the transformative nature of what they are trying to do. Spin Me Round is another stab at it, and while I think they've grown into control of their style, it's not necessarily something I enjoy.
What Is Going On? As the film is speeding through its setup, it's clear that Spin Me Round shares a lot in common, spiritually, with the recent line of alternative comedy features from the creative duo. Brie has an attraction to writing and playing lonely, homely characters, which suits her talents as an actress, but I'm afraid that not much is being done in this film to anchor the audience on her side. Living alone in an unexciting place and working a service job with a low ceiling can be soul-crushing for the average person. However, it doesn't do anything to sell these aspects of Brie's character. The inciting event just falls into her lap, which leads you to wonder if this script could've been tightened and retained the same ideas (the answer is yes). Spin Me Round lasts longer than it needs to for a comedy of its complexity. However, the elongated style of its scenes is just a feature of Jeff Baena's directorial style. The upside is that the experience feels fuller, with the ability to spend more time on its conflict or characters; the downside is this power is often misused, and the pace struggles. Spin Me Round attempts to sprinkle seeds of distrust with the audience, but the tonal balance is off. As much as I enjoy a good dramedy, the comedic elements of this film overpower its attempts at being something of an erotic thriller. The setting of Italy, and the Italian culture — uniquely inspire this film, given its setup. You almost wish there was less humor — these tones could've been greater explored. This fusion of genres only works when both sides are firing off; in Spin Me Round, the humor is awkward, which endears you less to the characters, which in turn makes you care less for the situations they find themselves in.
Cast Misuse: This is by no means an indie cast. It includes many of the usual suspects in a Baena film, but almost every corner of this film features a fair bit of star power. However, like Alison Brie, many are reduced to playing familiar versions of themselves. Zach Woods feels perpetually pigeonholed into playing awkward, hyperactive weirdos, and the same is so in Spin Me Round. Tim Heidecker is good at playing cynical middle-aged mediocrity, which is exactly his role here. Not many of the participants in the getaway can gain another dimension like their organizer Craig, played by Ben Sinclair. Craig is ultimately more integral to the story's progression instead of exaggerating an archetype. The actors do good work in this film, but the intrigue they latch onto makes it into something goofy instead of a comedic take on something serious.
Those who enjoy the recent Baena/Brie collaborations could categorize Spin Me Round as a magical realist experience. The Italian countryside makes for a beautiful setting for an off-beat evening with a few of your favorite comedians.
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