Published Aug 10, 2020Spinster bills itself as an "anti-rom-com," which is to say that it's a dramedy about self-improvement and finding happiness in singledom. Chelsea Peretti plays titular "spinster" Gaby, a Halifax caterer who begins the movie by being dumped by her boyfriend on her 39th birthday. But don't feel too bad for her — she's constantly mean to him and they seem to hate each other.
In fact, Gaby is mean to just about everyone: she's snide towards a client who's organizing a "fairytale" wedding, and she speaks about graphic sex in front of a friend's kids despite being repeatedly told not to. At one point, her dad (Bill Carr) gifts her $25,000, and she gives back the cheque because she's offended it isn't more.
It's an approach that mistakes sheer unpleasantness for humour. Peretti attempts to deliver her insults with a deadpan that resembles her zingers from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but the jokes simply aren't funny enough to make use of her comic talents. She's not so much snarky as she is dour and self-pitying. Spinster makes a valid commentary on the way the patriarchy judges a woman's value by her ability to get married and have kids – but in the case of Gaby, it's hard to feel like she's been wronged by society when she self-sabotages herself so badly.
Thankfully, the film improves significantly once it enters its redemptive second half. Gaby strikes up a sweet relationship with her niece (Nadia Tonen), has a contrived but cute encounter with a stranded hiker (Jonathan Watton), gets a dog, and finds inspiration in her empowered, independent neighbour (Kate Lynch). There are lots of getting-my-life-in-order montages with uplifting indie folk, and the characters generally spend a little too much time talking about how they don't like upscale restaurants with fancy saucing techniques. Spinster eventually becomes the loveably corny, feel-good movie it was aiming for.
Perhaps the message of Spinster is: if you want to be single and focus on bettering yourself, you deserve support; but if you do want to find love, maybe start with not being an unpleasant downer to everyone around you. (Game Theory)