FOR JEFF BAENA'S 'SPIN ME ROUND' - "IT'S REMINISCENT OF HIS OLDER STUFF, BUT FEELS COMPLETELY NEW & FRESH"
Jeff Baena's Spin Me Round stars co-writer Allison Brie as a manager of a California-based Italian eatery franchise who earns an all-expenses trip to Italy, where she participates in the franchise’s educational immersion program. The film had its premiere this past Saturday at SXSW. After filming The Little Hours in Italy with Brie and Aubrey Plaza about five years ago, Baena was eager to return. Plaza appears in the new film, as well.
"We had a blast shooting The Little Hours," Brie tells The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern. "It was especially fun for me to be there with my husband Dave [Franco], who’s in the movie, as well as Jeff [Baena] and Aubrey [Plaza]. And we have a lot of repeat offenders here, like Molly [Shannon] and Fred Armisen. But Jeff came up with the concept for this movie pretty much right after we finished The Little Hours, because he wanted to get back to Italy as soon as possible. There were some delays on that, and in the interim we made Horse Girl together. After that, Jeff brought it back around and said, “I’ve written a 10-page outline for this other Italy movie idea—do you want to write it with me?” The Little Hours and Horse Girl were unscripted—we worked off a 30-page outline—but for this movie, we fleshed it out into a 35-page outline and were gonna take it out like that, and then because of the pandemic and having so much time on our hands we ended up just writing the whole script. And then we had a fun time asking all our friends to be in it."
Plaza recently worked with Michael Caine on a movie called Best Sellers, and tells Collider's Perri Nemiroff that something Caine had told her carried over to the group dynamic in Italy for Spin Me Round:
Michael Caine put it into my head that when you’re shooting a movie, maybe that’s how it was in the old days, but he was like, ‘The way I do it is we shoot all day long and then every night we go to dinner. I put on my dinner jacket and we go to dinner and we have wine,' and we tried to adopt that kind of approach in Italy where, even though we were exhausted and all losing our minds, we just really kind of dove fully in and just tried to have that experience, and I think it’s the best version of filmmaking.
And thanks, apparently, to a tax credit scenario, Pino Donaggio was asked to compose the film's music - according to an article by Mark Olsen at the Los Angeles Times:
The film also surprises with its lush score by Pino Donaggio, the Italian composer best known for his collaborations with Brian De Palma on films including “Carrie,” “Dressed to Kill” and “Body Double.” For a tax credit, it was necessary to have a key Italian crew member, and Baena was a huge fan of what he called the “classiness and sleaziness” of Donaggio’s work, so he figured it was worth asking. When it turned out Donaggio was interested, Baena, Brie and Plaza drove to Venice after they finished shooting to meet the composer. He gave them a whirlwind view of the city, including a long evening at the famed Harry’s Bar.
Baena called the collaboration “a once in a lifetime thing” and returned to Italy for the scoring sessions. “I went to Rome to meet him at the studio where all the Italian greats worked, it’s basically this one studio that the legends recorded at,” Baena said. “And it was like my dream to basically spend a week with Pino Donaggio and just hang out with him. And he is like this cute, amazing old guy who is so on the level and is so sharp and funny and so down.
“And his music is incredible,” added Baena. “It’s hard to basically say, ‘I wanna do something like your old work,’ but I didn’t really wanna push that. I want him to go to a new place. And I think he found this middle ground where it’s reminiscent of some of his older stuff, but it feels completely new and fresh. So it has a familiar, but also unique feeling, which is what I want the movie to feel like.”
A review of Spin Me Round by The Wrap's Carlos Aguilar describes some of Donaggio's music:
Casting a wide casting net, Baena also folds in bit parts for name talent like Fred Armisen, Ego Nwodim and Lil Rel Howery. They’re responsible for most of the effective comedy, though in some cases with portrayals that border in “SNL”-style caricatures. While not always as funny as it wishes to be through the managerial team bickering dynamic, “Spin Me Round” is generally engaging thanks to the “what the hell is happening here?” doubt that Baena instills early.
An interesting comedic exercise, this is Baena’s least eccentric outing yet (considering there are no jealous zombies or foul-mouthed nuns), but it’s perhaps his most narratively ambitious, in terms of its genre playfulness and a clear objective of dismantling its protagonist’s false illusions. Both the score (by veteran composer Pino Donaggio) and Sean McElwee’s cinematography go along with variations in tone.
Just as the music goes from happy-go-lucky, jingle-like cheer to suspensefully ripe enough for a James Bond film, the lighting choices become more purposefully on the nose to reflect the terror Amber perceives all around her. There’s a thematic and practical synergy that’s far more impressive than some of the dry-humor gags that don’t amount to much.