Movie Review: Comedy ponders being a “Spinster” in The Maritimes

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Chelsea Peretti plays a cynically bemused and “mouthy caterer having no luck planning a wedding of her own in “Spinster,” a dry but whimsical Canadian comedy about involuntary singlehood.

Peretti, of TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” plays Gaby, a Nova Scotian we meet as she’s hearing out some bride-to-be’s obnoxious “magical fairytale” story of how she met her future husband.

“Never underestimate the power of romantic love,” the bride (Amy Groening) chirps.

That’s Gaby’s opening to school the woman on how marriage began “as a contract,” and has devolved into “at best, gross consumerism, at worst, a tax break.”

She’s not hearing this nonsense today, even though that’s the bulk of her catering business. It’s her birthday. She’s 39. “Spinster” tracks her story from birthday to birthday, the long Death March to 40.

Her live-in bore of a boyfriend moves out. She gets it. “I’m mouthy and I’m irritable, and and I need to work on my core!”

Her coupled up friends and relatives might be relieved she’s rid of “Mr. Club Soda, all bubbles, no taste.” But is this her fate, to wind up “some old bag lady,” alone like “my great Aunt Elise…died in her bathtub. They found the body a week later.”

BFF Amanda’s (Susan Kent) advice, that she needs to “choose, and not be chosen,” doesn’t convince Gaby of anything. Speed dating, online dating? The allure is fading.

“I’d full-on rather be knitting.”

The year will take her through attempted couplings, a new role as weekly companion to the daughter (Nadia Tonen) of her divorced brother Alex (David Rossetti), adopting a dog and off-handedly pursuing “my dream,” to move from just catering to having her own restaurant.

Will a man ever fit into all that?

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The least realistic part of the script is it’s casual dismissal of the all-consuming time-suck that being a professional baker in the hospitality is. Gaby is shown as having all sorts of time on her hands, as the movie is concerned with personal, sexual fulfillment.

Peretti deadpans through 85 minutes of this in blandly pleasant style, with only the occasional flash of testy debate about which is more selfish, singlehood (not feeding the generational social security system) or marriage and procreation (straining resources, and the planet).

This is Canada, after all.

The funniest sequence in director Andrea Dorfman’s (“Parsley Days”) bag of tricks in the over-familiar speed-dating montage, cynical and snarky.

“To be honest, I never really listened to Rush.”

It’s easy enough to sit through, but the entire affair is more deflating than heartening. “Spinsterhood” as depicted here is just as much a “fantasy” of singlehood at 40 as the fantasy’s Gaby ridicules. Large support system, generous father willing to support her dream, professional fulfillment, worry-free Canadian health care, Border Collie, “But why can’t I find a partner, and should I care that I can’t?”

Hard to find much conflict, comic or otherwise, in all of this.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity

Cast: Chelsea Peretti, Susan Kemp, David Rossetti, Bill Carr and Nadia Tonen

Credits: Directed by Andrea Dorfman, script by Jennifer Deyell. A Vertical Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:27

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