The Pitch: Amber (Alison Brie) runs the Bakersfield outpost of Tuscany Grove, a popular Olive Garden-adjacent family eatery chain. Great at her job but yearning for something more, Amber gets the opportunity of a lifetime when her boss (Lil Rel Howery) selects her for an all-expenses-paid work retreat to Italy. Amber’s excitement is doubled when her best friend Emily (Ego Nwodim) suggests a tantalizing possibility during her time in Europe: What if she falls in love?
On the trip, she meets a group of other lucky Tuscany Grove managers, including the nosy Deb (Molly Shannon), the arrogant Fran (Tim Heidecker), and the friendly Dana (Zach Woods). Most notably, she’s introduced to Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola), the chain’s wealthy, handsome owner.
Nick immediately takes a liking to Amber and, with the help and trusted discretion of his mysterious assistant Kat (Aubrey Plaza), asks Amber to accompany him on his yacht. Reeling from a recent breakup and a failure to launch a business of her own, Amber takes advantage of this opening, hoping this secret romance could yank her out of her existential and professional boredom and lead her to that very thing she longs for.
But as the tryst heats up, Amber catches on that things are not all they seem with Nick. In fact, the whole program and the shady personalities who supervise it reek of suspicious activity. Why is the retreat’s expat organizer Craig (Ben Sinclair) recording everything on his video camera? Why does everyone have to stay at a modest hotel and not at the fancy villa next door? Is everyone really who they say they are? What begins as an idyllic getaway adventure for Amber soon devolves into an unsettling and wayward journey of deception, delusion, and debauchery.
Undercooked and Overbaked: Watching a good movie is often like eating a delicious three-course meal. You have a starter to satisfy some initial cravings, followed by a hearty and juicy dish that hits all the pleasure centers and a sweet treat to top it off. Spin Me Round — Jeff Baena’s fifth directorial effort and his second writing collaboration with star Alison Brie — succeeds in serving a tasty first course in the form of a lightly subversive rom-com, but struggles to craft an entrée and dessert nourishing enough for an overall satisfactory cinematic meal.
In its best and most inspired moments, Spin Me Round is an appealing companion to the trouble-in-paradise dramedy of The White Lotus, with hints of Call Me By Your Name’s lush European escapism. The incredible cast of comedic actors, a remarkable constant in Baena’s oeurve, also brings some prickly humor to balance out the narrative’s paranoid undertones.
But once the mood shifts toward the dark and weird, the film’s aims become less and less clear and its dramatic momentum loses steam, leaving one hungry for something with a little more thematic and emotional bite.
A Promising Appetizer: It would be misleading to say that Spin Me Round’s potential is completely wasted. The film’s first half does contain some genuinely hilarious scenes, anchored by the strong chemistry and comic timing of its talented, attractive ensemble.
These early sequences, where Amber and the other managers are forced to endure Craig’s dull, awkward group exercises and banal Italian cuisine lessons from the restaurant’s menu maker Lizzy (Lauren Weedman), have the feel of a tightly wound workplace sitcom. Everyone seems just as desperate to have fun as Amber, if not more, with some milking the program of its worth in their own specifically selfish ways.
Among the bunch, Heidecker’s obliviously obnoxious reality show chef is a major highlight, the Tim & Eric star fully leaning into the brash dirtbag persona he’s so skilled at playing. Shannon continues to do exemplary later-period work, her performance a delicious elixir of quietly judgmental affectations that echo her characters on I Love That For You and The White Lotus.
High Maintenance’s Sinclair is also a standout as Craig, mining laughs from his equally creepy and snarky demeanor. Even Debby Ryan and Ayden Mayeri make some meat out of their relatively small performances as the amusingly deadpan Susie and the ditzy Jen.