Tag Archives: Jeff Baena

Love In the Time of Breadsticks

Spin Me Round

by George Wolf

A madcap reminder that what seems too good to be true probably is, Spin Me Round finds Alison Brie and an engaging ensemble looking for love in the time of endless breadsticks.

Brie co-writes the screenplay and stars as Amber, the manager of the Bakersfield, CA branch of Tuscan Grove restaurants, an Olive Garden-type Italian chain. Single and not loving it, Amber’s luck turns when her supervisor (Lil’ Rel Howry) tells her she’s won a spot in the company’s “Exemplary Manager’s Program.” And that means a free trip to the Tuscan Grove Villa in Pisa, Italy!

Ciao, suckers, think of me when you’re rolling silverware!

Okay, so the hotel isn’t quite as nice as expected, and her fellow winning managers are a little eccentric (including the great Molly Shannon as a woman really needing the meds that were lost with her luggage), but Tuscan Grove CEO Nick Martucci (Alessandro Nivola) is here in person!

Nick’s suave and handsome, and when his assistant Cat (Aubrey Plaza, perfectly condescending but curiously underused) delivers an invite to Nick’s private yacht, it’s Amber’s head that starts swimming. Could her BFF’s (SNL’s Ego Nwodim) predictions of amore be coming true, or is this too much too soon?

Bet you can guess.

But director and co-writer Jeff Baena (The Little Hours, Horse Girl, the I Heart Huckabees screenplay) is eager to take the film off the expected rom-com path. Just when you think you’ve got it pegged, there’s wild boars, kidnapping, shady characters and plenty of suspicion.

Brie is always likable, and her wide-eyed and accommodating Amber is the perfect tour guide through this land of tonal shifts and total weirdos (including Fred Armisen, Ben Sinclair and Tim Heidecker). And while the film is never uproarious, it’s consistently amusing and never a bore.

But what’s the end game here? Pointing out how many rom-com’s find romance in sexual harassment? How day to day drudgery can easily breed unrealistic fantasy? The consistent appeal of bland comfort food?

There’s a dash of all that in Spin Me Round‘s entree. It’s light but filling, with a pleasing aftertaste. Just don’t spend too much time wondering what’s going on in the kitchen, and dig in.

Get Thee to a Nunnery

The Little Hours

by George Wolf

Two nuns lead a wandering donkey back home to their convent in the 1600s. The groundskeeper offers them a quiet, respectful good morrow. In response, the sisters promptly unleash a torrent of f-bomb filled abuse his way, with an aggressive command to keep his perverted eyes to himself.

Welcome to the The Little Hours, a desert-dry sendup of one of the classic tales in The Decameron, a 14th century Italian novel.

This update from writer/director Jeff Baena (Life After Beth, script for I Heart Huckabees) keeps the original text’s basic premise. Servant Massetto (Dave Franco) is running for his life after being caught canoodling Francesca (Lauren Weedman), the wife of Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman). Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) offers Massetto refuge as the new groundskeeper at the convent, but only if he pretends to be a deaf/mute.

Deal.

The handsome Massetto is fresh meat to the ladies of the convent, many of whom are not there from a Godly calling. In short order, Massetto is juggling the sweet Alessandra (Alison Brie), the crazy Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza, also one of the film’s producers) and the sexually confused Ginerva (Kate Micucci).

The Holy Grail scene with Sir Galahad in Castle Anthrax will come to mind, and not just for the lustful young ladies. The entire affair has the feel of a Monty Python setup that just never turns a silly corner. The extremely talented ensemble (which also includes Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen and more) plays it nearly stone-faced all the way, just daring you to think there is anything humorous about their anachronistic sex farce.

Some of it is screamingly funny, and other times the film falls flat. Through it all, though, there runs a sly comment on the treatment of women (specifically in the Church) that’s smart and well-played.

It’s never a consistent gut-buster, but The Little Hours is inspired, ambitious lunacy that is always entertaining.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meGfRXMSW9c