Synopsis: A composer who suffers writer’s block rediscovers his passion after an adventurous one-night stand.
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, Joanna Kulig, Brian d’Arcy James, Anne Hathaway, Harlow Jane, Evan A. Ellison
Director: Rebecca Miller
Running Length: 102 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: I’m writing this review later in the evening, so I feel like I can be a little fast and loose with my honesty. Though I’ve tried to warm up to him over the years and see what others see in the work, I’m not a fan of Peter Dinklage. Game of Thrones fans, I don’t want to hear the argument; I trust that the awards have been well earned and, for what it’s worth, I thought Dinklage was fantastic in 2021’s Cyrano and deserved the Oscar nomination that he was denied. That said, I’m not one to rush out and line up for the latest Dinkalge feature because they are often about as exciting as an off-key dirge. Still, something about She Came to Me felt like it could turn the tide in his favor.
Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, Dinklage took over a role originally held by Steve Carell when it was also set to feature Amy Schumer and Nicole Kidman. When they also left, their roles went to Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway, and I can’t help but wonder what this movie, an odd duck of a dramedy, would have been like had its original cast been kept intact. In a film that is already akimbo on multiple levels, the three performers couldn’t be more different from one another in acting styles, resulting in a movie I grew to like despite its repeated attempts to drive me crazy.
One thing must be said at the start, and I’m afraid it may be slightly spoiler-y: the movie presented in the previews and even in the one-line description above is only about 1/3 of the actual plot of Miller’s script. It’s barely the A storyline. You wouldn’t know it, but She Came to Me is less about Dinklage’s tortured composer’s fling with a tugboat captain (Tomei, Frankie) and how it renews him with a brief creative flourish and more about his stepson’s involvement with the daughter of the cleaning woman employed by his wife (Hathaway, The Witches).
Early on, I wondered if Miller had edited different movies together because two distinct plots have no interaction. On one side, we have the cleaning woman (Joanna Kulig, Cold War), an immigrant dating a narcissist Civil War reenactor (Brian D’Arcy James, West Side Story, finally breaking out of the wounded patriarch role and moving into fascist father mode), trying to stop a situation with her daughter (Harlow Jane) from spinning out of control. Then, you have Dinklage (Three Christs) creating a (terrible but rapturously received) opera based on his one-time roll in the hay with Tomei’s recovering sex addict/tugboat captain. As his therapist-wife, Hathaway is an OCD neat freak who first finds faith and then has a crisis of it, resulting in a mind-boggling character change that seems to only be for a last-laugh visual.
When Miller finally does weave the threads together, they mesh better than I thought they would, though the journey forward remains awkwardly stuck in a world that only exists in movies. How else would a composer be commissioned to write another scathingly awful opera after creating such an aural turkey months earlier? Where the movie consistently gains traction is when Tomei enters the picture. Bringing the same kind of bright energy and wise understanding of character that she’s been undervalued at crafting since her Oscar-winning role in My Cousin Vinny, Tomei is the glue that holds the movie together and the plug that keeps the tugboat from sinking.
Pacing problems and conveniences began to grate on me as Miller started rounding the bases to home plate, but I oddly began to realize that I liked this strange group she’d created and thrown together in She Came to Me. While not terribly rich characters or eternally profound, they were at least interesting people to have around…for a bit. However, trust me, you’ll be glad when they go home.