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. Thats what I especially love about SPIN, Disneys first Indian-American led movie because for many South Asian viewers, Asian American representation often skews East Asian and while thats 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 familys Indian restaurant (Taste of India) and uncovers her love of mixing and creating music as she struggles to balance her fathers 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.
Helmed by Manjari Makijany (Skater Girl) and starring Bollywood actor Abhay Deol as Rheas 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 couldnt 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 shes 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.
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 isnt 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 isnt 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, lets 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!
I know, I know. It is always my primary complaint about these sort of movies but Im 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 its a coming of age story trope, but I am quite sick of it entirely.
Let me live already even if its 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, its 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. Its a surprisingly internal film with a lot of the character growth shown off-screen and while thats 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 familys movie nights.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero