Spin Me Round (2022)
I knew before I started that this was my cup of tea. Jeff Baena (Horse Girl) both writes and directs this Duplass Brothers production and it stars Alison Brie (who co-writes), currently my favourite actress on the planet, closely followed by my second favourite, Aubrey Plaza, who is married to...that's right, Jeff Baena. As you might expect, she pops up here too. Great vibes and we haven't even started yet.
Whilst we don't have what you would call a real 'presence' of Olive Garden in the UK, I am guessing that 'Tuscan Grove' is a direct lift for the purposes of entertaining sarcasm. When the manager of one of these mass produced gloop vendors (Brie) wins an all expense paid invitation to join a group of other 'Branch Managers' in Tuscany for an alleged elite horizon-expanding culinary adventure, she soon discovers that not everything would be as she had been imagining.
The first thing that hits you is a distinct lack of real humour. The cast list is very impressive, full of comedic talent, not least the likes of Molly Shannon, so we should question why there aren't more laughs. What we're offered is an admittedly well observed display of individual idiosyncrasies and easy, predictable character arcs, but few quantifiable moments, as it listlessly dawdles through its runtime. The poster suggests barely veiled romantic overtones, with its Mills & Boon art style, so perhaps the promise of comedy is really asking too much. When Amber (Brie) starts to spend time with Nick (Allesandro Nivola), the owner of the company, her previously secret hopes for romance in a foreign land come to the fore. All very twee, of course, but out of character for Baena, so we cannot help but wonder when the irony and appropriate reality will start to bite.
And bite it does, although it takes its own sweet time about it. The imagined paradise is anything but and the romance, well, that appears to be more common than we first thought as Nick is something of a lothario, if you believe his PA (Plaza). I would have been literally gobsmacked if the initial suggestions of the film had been borne out without some kind of spanner in the works and we should be glad that it didn't as this mostly pointless effort would have actually been completely pointless instead. The performances are all great, of course, given who we're talking about and it should come as no surprise that the fault here is not the players themselves, aside from a little over-acting on rare occasions. This is a sedentary story with a plot that rarely strafes from linear and we're left honestly wondering why this exists. Frankly, it's all over the place. I could watch Brie and Plaza all the live long day, but with the best will in the world, Baena is on auto-pilot here. He and everyone involved can do so much better. Perhaps I'm missing the message. I really hope I am.