Spin Me Round falls short of its Aubrey Plaza/Alison Brie lesbian romcom potential

A corporate culinary trip to Italy turns both romantic and out of control in kinda romcom Spin Me Round, starring Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Alessandro Nivola. It’s impossible not to review the film sapphically, writes Lillian Crawford – but that’s where Spin Me Round is most disappointing.

How could any woman resist the allure of a holiday in Tuscany with Aubrey Plaza? That seems to be the highly plausible premise of Jeff Baena’s latest awkward indie comedy Spin Me Round which premiered at South by Southwest in 2022. It’s a honey trap that Alison Brie’s Amber, the manager of a mass-produced Italian chain restaurant in America, falls head-over-heels into. Antics both hilarious and bizarre inevitably ensue.

It’s impossible not to review Spin Me Round sapphically. Since her marriage to Baena, Plaza has become a bisexual icon to queer women everywhere. Her characters have grown increasingly unhinged since her time playing April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation, peaking with the title character in 2017’s Ingrid Goes West in which she embarks on an obsessional gay quest to be and be with Elizabeth Olsen. Baena has said that his recent awareness of his wife’s status as a lesbian sex symbol, especially after her scene-stealing supporting role in 2020’s Happiest Season, inspired him to make this film.

That is where Spin Me Round is most disappointing. The film has been sold with promotional stills of Plaza and Brie riding a Vespa through the streets of Lucca in tight cocktail dresses, interviews in which the actresses talked about the fun of making out with each other. The Vespa never appears. There is, dear reader, a scene where the women run through cobbled streets together, smoke cigarettes, kiss, and indulge in a bit of light fingering. But then Plaza disappears without a trace, and everything goes south from there.

Despite tantalising us with the idea of a fun new lesbian romcom, Baena tries to turn Spin Me Round into an absurdist thriller. There are orgiastic sex parties and porn shoots, granted, but there are also rampant feral hogs and ominous female disappearances. In the final act so many loose ends are sprinkled in that the improvisational style of this sort of indie comedy starts to fall apart, admittedly with a smattering of humorous results. Yet as Baena rushes to add some conclusions to proceedings, Plaza never returns to the screen.

The great tragedy of Spin Me Round is its compulsory heteronormativity. Plaza’s character, Kat, is introduced as the personal assistant to the owner of the restaurant chain Amber works for, dressed in bralets and cropped mesh tops, chainsmoking, and reading novels by Gabriel García Márquez. In her deadpan flirtations, it’s clear she wants to get with Amber, with the hypermasculine presence of boss Nick, played by Alessandro Nivola, and his big villa and yacht as heterosexual distractions from the real romantic core. That the film ends with neither of these yarns coming to a head feels like pussy blocking.

Brie navigates this trainwreck of a plot with unwavering elegance, her wide eyes in a fixed state of confusion which hilariously mirrors our own. She leads an amusing cast of supporting characters, from a gloriously unstable Molly Shannon as Deb who is constantly dressed to the nines in what resembles costumes from The Muppet Show to Ben Sinclair’s monotonous Craig who cannot apologise enough for showing the group Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful. Enough of their improvised jokes land to keep things entertaining throughout, even if the steam is all but gone by the end of the line.

Spin Me Round is a film which promises a lot more than it delivers, especially for the queer audience it is apparently pitched at. It’s always a pleasure to watch Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie on screen, especially when they are allowed to run amok as they are at the start of this one. But Plaza’s absence towards the end is never fully explained, and leaves one desperately hungry for more. It would be best if men like Baena left the sapphics to the girls.