Jeff Baena’s new film has all of the elements of his classic comedies—quirky characters, an out-of-the-box story-line, and an off-the-cuff feel when it comes to scenes. However, ‘Spin Me Round’ also delves into other genres throughout its run-time: A rom-com, a spoof, and even a thriller, which leaves audiences wondering what the heck is 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 kind of complacent manager at an off-brand type of Olive Garden. When she gets the news that she’s been selected by the company to head to Italy for a special manager’s retreat, she’s ecstatic. And the trip begins as something out of her imagination, but that all changes—and in a very quick and almost trippy way.
To discuss more on what went into creating ‘Spin Me Round’ and the common theme between all of the zany characters and what they’re searching for, Alison Brie sat down to chat.
You star in this film, but you also co-wrote the script. Where did the idea for ‘Spin Me Round’ come from?
Jeff Baena, who I wrote the film with and who directed the movie came up with the idea. He had read some articles about an immersive exemplary manager’s program that ended up being a bit more Americanized than it had been pitched as, and he thought that it was a really funny idea—and I agreed. From there, it was really fun for me to lean into this merge of different genres and the way the characters in the movie sort of dictate what genre the audience is going to watch based on their emotions, what they think is going to happen and what they want to have happen and the excitement that they’re craving. That is sort of what leads us down the different paths that we go down.
What can you tell me about your character, Amber?
She is a super passive character, she doesn’t make a lot of moves in her life. She’s been a manager at this Italian restaurant chain for nine years, and you don’t really get the sense that she’s trying for upward mobility. She’s a little bit stuck and she’s a real pushover, too. Amber is a little bit too go with the flow for her own good. You get the sense that she’s made some decisions in her life just based on what’s happened to her, and that is sort of mirrored in the rest of the movie as she gets the opportunity to go on this trip to Italy and in her mind, it’s going to be life-changing. She thinks she’s going to fall in love—and when she arrives at first, it seems like things might go in the direction that she expects, and very quickly. But then that unravels, and it sort of forces her to start to grab hold of her own destiny. It’s a journey of self-empowerment that she has. And through the experiences that she has on the trip, and the characters that she encounters, she learns a little bit about speaking up for herself.
I read that you mentioned past experiences with dating served as inspiration when writing this film. Does that come out through Alessandro Nivola’s character, Nick?
That character sort of already existed when Jeff came to me with the idea, but yeah, then I really did enjoy infusing that character with the nuance of some of my personal experiences. It even just makes all of those scenes very specific in terms of their dynamic with one another. Casting Alessandro really brought a whole new level to the character…I had so much work to infuse it from my own perspective, but Alessandro was asking us a lot of great questions from that character’s perspective. I think he really helped us to make it a more well-rounded character and kind of ask ourselves the question about why is that guy the way that he is? The whole movie is about unrealized expectations—every character in the movie is dealing with that and so is his. We get to hear his backstory, and his most climactic moment when he breaks down crying in the movie was really inspired by our discussions with Alessandro and our desire to give that character more of an arc.
What about the location — why Italy?
A lot of us had shot with Jeff before with his film ‘The Little Hour’s that was set in Italy, and I actually think that the whole point of making this movie was to get back to Italy. We love Italy so much, and he told me that he had sort of had this idea right after we shot that movie. So, Italy was always at the forefront. But the great thing about it being there is the cuisine is very specific, and I also think American-Italian cuisine is very specific. We all are kind of familiar with 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 have got to know that the American version of that food is not the traditional version. So, I think there is just a lot of room to play with that, and there’s just a lot of comedy in that.
This film falls on the more scripted side compared to other Baena films, which are more improvised. Does that make a huge difference?
Ultimately, not really—[although] I honestly prefer when something is fully scripted versus when something is completely improvised. I sort of feel like when you have parameters, it almost makes the creativity more fun and exciting when the scene is already scripted, and then you let people riff from there. It can be even more fun than just a total free for all. But the thing is, even the improvised films that I’ve made with Jeff—and that’s almost every film I’ve made with Jeff—they really had such a structure to them as well. And Jeff is very specific in terms of what he wants and the tones that he’s setting.
Some of the cast had worked together with you and Baena before. Were some characters—and I’m mainly thinking Molly Shannon’s hilarious Deb—planned for certain actors?
Absolutely, for Molly it was, yes—actually we didn’t know if Molly was available, but we did write that role for her, and for Aubrey Plaza as well. We certainly had that in mind while we were writing. And the rest of the cast, we really just went down roads with characters and reached out to actors who we were big fans of, or who we knew personally and we thought fit nicely into those roles. And after we cast the project, we did go back into the script and tailor those roles even more so to the actor who we cast. It’s such a talented cast, everyone is so funny and so great and brings so much to the table. So, then it’s just a matter of getting everyone on set and letting them run with it and have people riff a little bit and have their own energies to the character. That part is the most exciting part of the process for me, watching it come to life.
‘Spin Me Round‘ will be in theaters, On Demand, and streaming on AMC+ Aug. 19.