“Spin Me Round,” directed by Jeff Baena, is a kooky romp where unworldly travelers trip over their own fantasies of Europe. It follows the misadventures of Amber (Alison Brie), the manager of a chain spaghetti restaurant who has tasted so little of life that her dreams are an endless sea of factory-made Alfredo sauce. To Amber’s delight, she is selected for a work retreat where a small group of hand-selected employees (including Tim Heidecker, Zach Woods, Debby Ryan, Ayden Mayeri and Molly Shannon) will receive personal lessons in the identification of fresh herbs at the very Italian villa where the chain’s suave founder Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola) shoots commercials rhapsodizing about all-you-can-eat pasta.
These rewards prove to be as inauthentic as the company’s food. Baena and Brie, the co-writers of the script, successfully merge their subversion of “Eat Pray Love” with an update on the sexual harassment screwball comedy that cycled out of favor shortly after Melanie Griffith stuck it to those Financial District suits. Brie, making full use of her doe eyes and innocent smile, plays her heroine as so glamour-starved that she’s willing to overlook clues that the local Lotharios — American expats, not Italians — view her as a cheap cut of meat. Amber is wooed and patronized in the same breath, most literally at an erotically charged soiree where the host (Fred Armisen) clocks her crimson gown and launches into a lip-synced rendition of “The Lady In Red.” His attention hits her like a corked Chianti, but she lacks the certainty to declare its bad taste.
Baena calls upon Pino Donaggio, a composer whose credits stretch back to 1970s euro thrillers, and the cinematographer Sean McElwee to alert the audience not to take these shenanigans seriously. Amber’s arrival in Italy is hailed with the kind of sweeping symphony one might expect to hear in a World War I romance over a shot of a dumpster. Likewise, the film is ludicrous in its large strokes and pointed in its details, particularly Amber’s tense relationships with Deb (Molly Shannon), a clingy work colleague, and Kat (Aubrey Plaza), a jaded assistant who squires the American to dates with their boss. Although Plaza’s character makes it clear this is a story about complicity and manipulation, Baena keeps the tone silly, barely striving for scares even when creepy masks slink into view. He’s content to let the music take over — and so are we with its sly needle-drops that pull from heady italo disco and giallo horror scores.
Spin Me Round
Not rated. Runing time: 1 hour 44 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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