Jeff Baena’s new film has all the elements of his classic comedies – original characters, an original story and an improvised feel when it comes to the scenes. However, “Spin Me Round” also delves into other genres throughout its runtime: a romantic comedy, a parody, and even a thriller, which leaves audiences wondering what’s really going on.
But that’s part of the fun, according to Alison Brie, who stars in and also co-wrote the film with Baena. Brie plays Amber, a hard-working but also somewhat complacent manager in an off-brand Olive Garden type. When she learns that she has been selected by the company to go to Italy for a special retreat for managers, she is delighted. And the journey begins as something in his imagination, but everything changes – and in a very quick and almost trippy way.
To learn more about the creation of “Spin Me Round” and the common theme between all the goofy characters and what they’re after, Alison Brie sat down to chat.
You play in this film, but you also co-wrote the screenplay. Where did the idea for ‘Spin Me Round’ come from?
Jeff Baena, with whom I wrote the film and who directed it, had the idea. He had read about an immersive exemplary manager program that turned out to be a little more Americanized than it had been presented, and he thought it was a really fun idea – and I agreed. From there, it was really fun for me to look at this merging of different genres and how the characters in the movie kind of dictate what genre the audience is going to watch based on their emotions, what they think it’s going to happen and what they want it to happen and the excitement they crave. It is in a way what leads us on the different paths that we follow.
What can you tell me about your character, Amber?
She’s a super passive character, she doesn’t make a lot of moves in her life. She’s been running this Italian restaurant chain for nine years, and you don’t really get the sense that she’s trying to get ahead. She’s a bit stuck up and she’s also a real breeze. Amber is a little too go with the flow for her own good. You feel like she’s made decisions in her life based solely on what happened to her, and that kind of reflects through the rest of the movie as she’s given the opportunity to take this journey in Italy and in his mind, it’s going to be life changing. She thinks she’s going to fall in love – and when she gets to the start, it looks like things could go the way she expects, and very quickly. But then it falls apart and it kind of forces her to start grasping her own destiny. It’s a journey of empowerment that she has. And through the experiences she has on the journey and the characters she meets, she learns a bit to speak for herself.
I read that you mentioned past experiences with dating that served as inspiration while writing this film. Does this come out of Alessandro Nivola’s character, Nick?
This character sort of already existed when Jeff pitched the idea to me, but yeah, so I really enjoyed infusing this character with the nuance of some of my personal experiences. It even makes all of these scenes very specific in terms of their dynamics with each other. Casting Alessandro really brought a whole new level to the character… I had so much work infusing it from my own perspective, but Alessandro was asking us a lot of great questions from this character’s perspective. I think he really helped us make him a more complete character and ask ourselves why is this guy the way he is? The whole movie is about unfulfilled expectations – every character in the movie deals with them, just like his own. We hear his backstory, and his peak moment when he breaks down crying in the film was really inspired by our discussions with Alessandro and our desire to give this character more arc.
What about location – why Italy?
A lot of us had toured with Jeff before with his movie ‘The Little Hour’s which was set in Italy, and I actually think the whole point of doing that movie was to go back to Italy. We love Italy so much, and he told me he kind of came up with this idea right after shooting this movie. Thus, Italy has always been at the forefront. But what’s great is that the cuisine is very specific, and I also think American-Italian cuisine is very specific. We all know the difference between an alfredo and a real cacio e pepe that you might get in Italy… even if you haven’t been to Italy, you should know that the American version of this food is not the traditional version. So, I think there’s just a lot of room to play around with that, and there’s just a lot of comedy in there.
This film falls on the more scripted side compared to Baena’s other films, which are more improvised. Does it make a huge difference?
Well, not really…[although] Honestly, I prefer when something is fully scripted than when something is completely improvised. I feel like when you have settings it almost makes creativity more fun and exciting when the scene is already scripted and then you let people riff from there. This can be even more fun than just a free-for-all total. But the fact is that even the improvised films that I made with Jeff – and that’s almost all the films that I made with Jeff – they also had such a structure. And Jeff is very specific in terms of what he wants and the tone he sets.
Some actors had already worked with you and Baena. Were certain characters – and I’m thinking especially Molly Shannon’s hilarious Deb – intended for certain actors?
Absolutely, for Molly, yeah, actually, we didn’t know if Molly was available, but we wrote this role for her, as well as Aubrey Plaza. We certainly had that in mind as we wrote. And the rest of the cast, we really walked down the roads with characters and reached out to actors that we were big fans of, or that we knew personally and thought were a perfect fit for those roles. And after launching the project, we went back into the script and adapted those roles even more to the actor we chose. It’s such a talented cast, everyone is so funny and so great and brings so much to the table. So it’s just about getting everyone on set and letting them run with it and people riffing a bit and having their own energies for the character. This part is the most exciting part of the process for me, seeing it come to life.
“Spin Me Round” hits theaters, on demand, and streams on AMC+ on August 19.