A romantic comedy where none of the jokes land and the romance is unconvincing and insufferable, Spin Out is that rare film lacking a single redeeming feature. Co-directed by Tim Ferguson and Marc Gracie, Spin Out is set in a small, rural town in northern Victoria and follows the fortunes of three members of a local ute driving team over the course of a single night during the town’s annual B&S Ball. Travis Jeffery (Wolf Creek, Gallipoli) plays Sparrow, the film’s narrator and plucky comic relief character who introduces us to his team mates Billy (Xavier Samuel) and Lucy (Morgan Griffin) via voiceover.
The three are childhood friends but Billy and Lucy constantly squabble because, according to Sparrow, “Lucy is a bit uptight” while “Billy is a bit too loose”. The tension between the two reaches breaking point when Billy attempts an unplanned and risky circle work stunt in the middle of a ute muster competition, sabotaging the team’s chances and provoking a furious Lucy to announce that she’s leaving the team and moving to Sydney the very next day. Suddenly contrite, Billy tries to dissuade Lucy with vague platitudes about how sweet their small town life is, telling her “it doesn’t get any better than this”. “I want more”, Lucy responds, before departing to get ready for the B&S Ball that will mark their last night together.
Also attending the ball are a slew of flat, one-dimensional supporting characters, most of whom serve no functional plot purpose while also lacking any comedic value. There’s Rooter (Thomas Blackburne), JJ (Brendan Bacon) and Tubby (Mark Nicholson), old school mates of the central trio who have recently been dumped by their girlfriends Merline (Aileen Huynh), Taylah (PiaGrace Moon) and Shazza (Lisa Kowalski), after the boys decide to join the army. Lincoln Lewis and Christie Whelan play city slicker siblings Nic and Sasha who act as romantic rivals to Billy and Lucy while representing a stereotype of people from Sydney that is too weirdly inaccurate to be amusing or offensive. Melissa Bergland gives the film’s best performance as Mary, the snarky, misanthropic object of Sparrow’s affections.
The fact that one can so easily imagine an absolutely hilarious comedy taking place in the wild, hedonistic, culturally specific environment of a Bachelor and Spinster Ball makes it all the more disappointing when Spin Out’s B&S Ball proves to be spectacularly unfunny. Most of the film’s Ball scenes focus on Billy and Lucy’s increasingly angsty romantic misadventures and the occasional attempts at bawdy comedy are repeatedly undercut by abrupt tonal shifts to serious drama. Samuel and Griffin both put a lot of effort into making Billy and Lucy’s insipid love story work, but the two actors can’t overcome the truly dreadful dialogue they’ve been asked to deliver and by the end of the third act their scenes have become difficult to watch.
Spin Out is at least a polished looking piece of cinema, featuring some energetic camera work and impressive vehicular stunts. However co-directors Ferguson and Gracie did a poor job working with their large cast of young actors, who are left to grope their way semi-blindly through the material provided by Ferguson and Edwina Exton’s script for most of the film’s runtime. It’s clear that a lot of talented professionals were involved in the production of Spin Out, both behind and in front of the camera, but there’s no denying that the finished product is a mediocre effort that squanders the comedic potential of its milieu.