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Tuscany-set ‘Spin Me Round’ a confused, confusing rom-com



Not rated. On VOD.

Grade B-

“Spin Me Round,” which takes its name from a Roxy Music song, is a pseudo-Mumblecore romantic effort from companies Limelight and Duplass Brothers Productions. The film features Alison Brie (TV’s “Mad Men”) as singleton Italian chain restaurant manager Amber, who gets a trip to the Tuscan mother country from Bakersfield, Calif., to take cooking lessons with a group of managers from house chef Lizzie (Lauren Weedman) and meet supposedly dashing, but in fact creepy founder Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola). Nick comes on to all the attractive new female managers he meets, but especially to Amber. The film reunites Brie with Aubrey Plaza, her co-star in “The Little Hours,” a 2017 comedy based on “The Decameron” also set in Tuscany. Both “The Little Hours” and “Spin Me Round” were directed by Jeff Baena, who is Plaza’s husband. In “Spin Me Round,” Plaza plays Kat, Nick’s deeply tanned enabler and probable one-time lover.

Instead of staying in the opulent villa where Nick lives, Amber and her fellow managers are housed in a tacky nearby hotel, where Amber’s room has a view of bins. Among the other managers are Deb (Molly Shannon), an older woman who has lost her luggage and at first borrows Amber’s clothes, young and sexy Susie (Debby Ryan, Disney’s “Jessie”) and the tall and extremely weird Dana (Zach Woods, TV’s “Silicon Valley”). Boars, prosciutto on the run, roam freely.

Ragu, we are informed, is made with red wine, while Bolognese sauce is made with white. Susie isn’t sure what the difference is between Karl Marx and Groucho Marx. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “News of a Kidnapping” and the self-fulfilling memoir “Eat Pray Love” are invoked to dubious end. Deb’s locally sourced outfits grow increasingly outlandish, not unlike the movie. Amber is invited to spend a day on Nick’s yacht. Kat ferries Amber to and from. Nick is a rather boring hustler, who gives Amber a skin-crawling nickname, Baby Turtle. He invites Amber to a party where she meets Nick’s eccentric sculptor friend Ricky (Fred Armisen) and his provocatively dressed wife Sofia (Tricia Helfer). The entire event had an “Eyes Wide Shut” vibe, and indeed someone opens a drawer and finds it full of masks. Everyone dances to Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red.” Amber and Kat make their escape and end up making out briefly. A confused Amber begins to glow. Where is this headed?

“Spin Me Round” was co-written by Baena and Brie, who previously collaborated on the 2020 effort “Horse Girl.” also starring Brie and featuring Shannon in a supporting role. “Spin Me Round” isn’t sure what it is. Is it a rom-com? A sitcom? A comic spin off of “Eyes Wide Shut” set in Tuscany? Is it an excuse for Brie, Baena and Plaza to get a second Italian vacation? And we are not sure what Amber is, either. It’s hard to believe that she’s such a naif at her stage of life and given her profession. Of course, we like her because Brie plays her. But on the page and screen, she does not amount to much. The same is true of “Spin Me Round.” I would, however, like to listen again to the film’s score by the venerable Pino Donaggio (“Don’t Look Now,” “Carrie”).

“Spin Me Around” contains sexually suggestive language and brief nudity.

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