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The Italian Jobs

Sean McElwee

Spin Me Round (2022)

The Jeff Baena strolling players, Aubrey Plaza first among equals, return for “Spin Me Round,” a dark screwball farce screened at SXSW in which rich people are always the ones having all the fun. Mr. Baena also returns to Tuscany, where he put Ms. Plaza into a 14th Century convent for “The Little Hours” without changing her comedy one bit; and to black comedy, after 2020’s “Horse Girl” used the director’s same basic style to be serious about mental health and trauma. But the course correction to swap these destinations back and forth in Mr. Baena’s cosmos of unnerving, petulant characters simmering with eccentricity might be only an inch or two.

“Spin Me Round” shows there’s no escape from the corporate maze. Amber (cowriter Alison Brie), lonely manager at a California branch of diner chain Tuscan Grove, heads off on a company trip to Italy with a selection of other employees, who all turn out to be varying kinds of nightmare. Deb (Molly Shannon) is a knot of insecurities; Fran (Tim Heidecker) is full of himself; Jen (Ayden Mayeri) is an over-sharer. And all of them are more tolerable than the Tuscan Grove representatives, especially company boss and wealthy horndog Nick (Alessandro Nivola), whose immediate attempts to get intimate with Amber apparently stem from her resemblance to his own sister. Kat (Ms. Plaza), Nick’s assistant, mediates the clandestine encounters between the pair while apparently bursting with some chaotic instincts of her own.

A whole chain of unlikelihood involving neighbors and swingers Ricky and Sophia (Fred Armisen and Tricia Helfer) lead Amber to think that the point of the trip, and possibly the point of Tuscan Grove, is to allow Nick and his rich friends to kidnap and murder women; as if the company’s mass-produced abuses of Italian cuisine were not enough. The fact that Mr. Baena’s characters are borderline sociopaths already means the feint toward darker territory almost holds water, although the dry jokes don’t cease: Amber rolls over in bed to discover Kat right there with her, an old routine that Ms. Plaza can rev into life with one satanic grin. Plus Mr. Baena has hired Pino Donaggio to do the score, and the film swims under something like the moist hormonal unreality that the composer laid over various lethal excesses for Brian De Palma. “Spin Me Round” has unhappy and exploited working class Americans becoming convinced that the rich are louche perverts and the casual dining sector is a front for their abuses, and then being completely wrong; which is either near the cultural knuckle or not near enough, depending on your perspective.


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