by Hope Madden
Director Andrea Dorfman and her frequent collaborator, writer Jennifer Deyell, are quietly establishing a pattern. They are preoccupied by the fact that people are preoccupied with a woman’s relationship status.
They’ve certainly put a fine point on that with their latest, Spinster.
A sort of anti-romantic comedy, the film opens as a voiceover gushes through the most romantic, fairy tale meeting ever. Pan to Gaby (Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), the caterer listening to the bride-to-be with overt cynicism, possibly a little contempt, definitely mockery.
Gaby is 39 today and before the day is over, her boyfriend will break up with her, her married friend’s buddies will demean her childlessness, her dad will disappoint her (and she him), and her brother will forget it’s her birthday but rope her into babysitting.
That is to say, the stage is set for Gaby to actually take stock of her life and address what’s really causing her existential grief. (Hint: it’s not a boyfriend.)
Peretti is so comfortable in this character that she creates believability even when situations and the ensemble around her lack authenticity. Dorfman’s film has an episodic, even sit-com feel to it. She pieces together moments of Gaby’s life with a more “and then this happened, and then this happened” approach than with an outright narrative.
On occasion, this works. Peretti’s one-on-one chemistry is often enough to elevate individual scenes. Her deadpan delivery is ideal for Deyell’s slyly clever script, which refuses to preach, preferring to resignedly point out certain frustrating realities.
Though the execution lacks polish, Spinster makes up for most of that with Peretti’s cynical charm and its own quiet determination to subvert its chosen genre.