While there are many reasons to love Disney, one of the main reasons I do is because of their proactive efforts to represent underrepresented people in a non-tokenized manner. That’s what I especially love about “SPIN,” Disney’s first Indian-American led movie because for many South Asian viewers, Asian American representation often skews East Asian — and while that’s great for East Asians, it can be very lonely being excluded from a group that is allegedly supposed to include you.
“SPIN” follows Rhea (Avantika Vandanapu, “Diary of a Future President”), an Indian-American high school student who works at her family’s Indian restaurant (Taste of India) and uncovers her love of mixing and creating music as she struggles to balance her father’s expectations, her friends, and her burgeoning identity as a DJ. The dialog is snappy, the plotline wholesome, and the story is predictable and satisfying in the way of Disney teen movies.
“SPIN” is gentle fun.
Helmed by Manjari Makijany (“Skater Girl”) and starring Bollywood actor Abhay Deol as Rhea’s widower father and U.K. comedian/actor Meera Sya as her maternal grandmother, the movie is soft and sweet, but not in a cloying, treacly way. While “SPIN” started off a bit too Disney-esque for my tastes (though I settled in quickly enough), the story evolved and did manage to surprise me — even as I saw all the plot points coming from a mile away. I just couldn’t allow myself to believe that was the turn the movie was going to go — and I was so happy that it did! (More on this later.)
For those of you who need a little bit more plot than the quick sum up above, Rhea is a whip smart high schooler whose life includes her bantery friends, her after school coding club, her multi-generational family, and her work as a hostess and waitress at Taste of India. She falls for Max, the new kid and aspiring DJ from school, as they meet cute while she’s at work and they start a G-rated flirtation as Max teaches Rhea the basics of DJing. Conflict ensues when her love of DJing and music begins to interfere with her ability to work and meet her multiple commitments.
There are also several subplots that are all so wholesome and cute — the movie really is very on-brand for Disney.
The best parts of “SPIN”
One of the most notable parts about “SPIN” is the celebration of ambiculturalism or the ability to move from one cultural context to another with fluidity and comfort. Rhea — and one gets the same sense from her friends, too — isn’t forced to choose between her Indian or American sides. They are equally important and holistically integrated as a full and beautiful life — if at times, stressful. Rhea just is — and as an Asian American, I appreciate the fact that her experience isn’t othered or made to be exotic. Her life is just her life and that is delightful to witness.
Also, can we get a round of applause for the lowkey feminism?
Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that the romance subplot (and DJ contest) is incredibly satisfying.
And finally, my absolute favorite part of the movie was the obvious love and affection between Rhea and her family, her friends, and her love of music. Rhea is so surrounded by people who love her, who want the best for her, and who are willing to work through conflict in order to maintain their relationship with her even as she changes and pursues different interests. May we all have friends and family like Rhea does!
What would have made “SPIN” perfect
I know, I know. It is always my primary complaint about these sort of movies — but I’m so sick of moms or dads being dead as a character trait. Like, how about we learn life lessons with parents still in the picture? I know it’s a coming of age story trope, but I am quite sick of it entirely.
Let me live already — even if it’s just my fictional representation on screen!
Otherwise, I would have liked to have seen more aspects about DJing, the concepts of making music, and seeing more of the process of her choosing how to make beats or melodies. Although, come to think of it, it’s not a how-to video — but I really would have enjoyed a more thorough training mashup akin to martial arts or whatever. I also would have loved to see more of her interactions with her friends. It’s a surprisingly internal film with a lot of the character growth shown off-screen and while that’s refreshing, I love banter and would have loved to see Rhea interact with her eclectic friends on-screen a lot more.
Overall, though the movie is full of tropes and obvious plot points, “SPIN” is enjoyable and a great family movie to add to your family’s movie nights.