'Spinster' Mistakes Insults for Humour, but Finds Redemption in Kindness

Directed by Andrea Dorfman

Starring Chelsea Peretti, Bill Carr, Nadia Tonen, David Rossetti, Kate Lynch

BY Alex HudsonPublished Aug 10, 2020

Spinster 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 Films)

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