THE STORY – Composer Steven Lauddem is creatively blocked and unable to finish the score for his big comeback opera. At the behest of his wife, Patricia, formerly his therapist, he sets out in search of inspiration and finds much more than he bargained for.
THE CAST – Peter Dinklage, Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, Evan Ellison, Harlow Jane, Joanna Kulig & Brian d’Arcy James
THE TEAM – Rebecca Miller (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 102 Minutes
“She Came to Me” is billed as a romantic comedy; while films of this genre are frequent, this one clearly aims to stand out as one that features Oscar winners Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway and Emmy winner Peter Dinklage. With such a prestigious, gifted cast, one would hope (and maybe even assume) that the movie would rise above others in the genre. And, yet, not even this talented trio can save “She Came to Me” from being neither romantic nor comedic, with plenty of unmemorable dialogue, characters, and scenes.
The film opens with Steven (Dinklage), a renowned opera composer, going through writer’s block. While he has hit a particularly rough patch, his former therapist and now-wife, Patricia (Hathaway), encourages him to leave the house to seek inspiration. Eventually, he meets Katrina (Tomei), a tugboat captain who admits she’s “addicted to romance.” After his one-night stand with Katrina, Steven uses this encounter as inspiration for his new opera. At the same time, Magdalena (Joanna Kulig) and Trey (Brian d’Arcy James) disapprove of their daughter Tereza’s (Harlow Jane) relationship with Julian (Evan Ellison) – who just so happens to be Patricia’s daughter and Steven’s step-son.
“She Came to Me” marks writer-director Rebecca Miller’s first narrative feature since 2015’s “Maggie’s Plan,” which was hailed as a unique romantic comedy. This film, however, is a noticeable misstep in her career, which has also included writing “The Meyerowitz Stories.” Neither her direction nor writing in “She Came to Me” fully land, although her aims are well-intentioned and admirable. To her credit, she wastes almost no time setting up the main characters, so we get a sense of their personalities immediately. However, this does come across as too rushed, leading to the A plot starting perhaps too soon. Steven’s first encounter with Katrina actually occurs fairly early in the film. Dinklage’s chemistry with Tomei is actually better than his with Hathaway, thereby making the scenes between him and Tomei more interesting than essentially everything else in the movie.
Hathaway, who is also a co-producer on the film, is often given some bizarre, bad dialogue with which she does her best to salvage. Her character is written as the worst out of the three leads, and there are a few moments when her physical attractiveness is mentioned, and she sort of becomes objectified through the script. The handling of her mental health crisis is embarrassing, and her emotional breakdown seemingly comes out of nowhere. That said, all three actors give strong-enough performances, and make do with the poor script, even if it can’t match their exceptional talents. Tomei is particularly committed here, stealing every scene, even when she has no dialogue. Dinklage nails Steven’s anxious, people-averse personality, even if the character’s actions don’t always make sense. Brian d’Arcy is really miscast here as a super-strict, military-like stepdad, and Joanna Kulig is practically wasted.
The side characters in “She Came to Me” just aren’t that interesting, and they’re all pretty much people we’ve seen before – especially the high school-age lovers whose relationship is so hackneyed, and they’re often given cringe-worthy dialogue. There’s nothing original about these teen characters, and it’s easy to wonder whether these additional characters and storylines were ever needed in the first place. Predictability is rampant in the film, especially regarding how certain characters react to other characters’ actions. Sure, there are a handful of funny – or, at the very least, amusing – moments, but they are few and far between.
The relationship between Steven and his therapist’s wife is never fully explored, and, as such, we have little reason to care about them as a couple. Also, there’s something so strange about him calling her “Doc,” even though they are married, and she is no longer his therapist. It doesn’t take long for “She Came to Me” to become needlessly ridiculous, straining credulity with every subsequent scene. Additionally, the shift towards a romantic drama is unwarranted and unbelievable, despite admirable efforts from the cast. These moments feel extremely forced. It also doesn’t help that these dramatic moments come across as unintentionally funny. The topics and issues introduced are interesting in theory but mostly fail on screen. There’s just way too much going on: Steven’s anxiety attacks, Patricia getting back in touch with her Catholic heritage, a teen getting accused of statutory rape after consensual sex with his underage girlfriend, and social class issues – to name a few (not to mention a military reenactment as well as scenes from an original opera, the latter of which are well done). It’s hard to comprehend why this is all here in a movie that’s fewer than two hours long.
Overall, “She Came to Me” is a missed opportunity for a unique rom-com – it’s hardly romantic and rarely comedic. Miller has put too much into this movie in terms of characters and plotlines, and the film would’ve been much better off if it had focused on far less. Hopefully, Dinklage, Hathaway, and Tomei’s upcoming projects will be better than this film, which is hardly worthy of their respective talents. Interestingly, the movie’s title is especially strange until you hear it referenced, which actually makes sense in that moment.