‘She Came to Me’ review: Characters too unbearable to be funny


If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie starring Peter Dinklage as a morose opera composer stuck in mid-career funk, Anne Hathaway as a high-strung therapist who’s considering becoming a nun and Marisa Tomei as an obsessive-romantic tugboat captain who cheerfully admits she has a stalking problem — well, that’s a very specific wish you’ve got there, and the uneven and bizarre rom-com “She Came to Me” is just the ticket, until it’s not.

This is one of the strangest movies of the year, and while writer-director Rebecca Miller (“Maggie’s Plan”) is an unquestionably talented filmmaker, bold for the sake of bold and zany for the sake of zany only carries the day for so long.

“She Came to Me” is set in a New York where everybody talks as if they’ve thought about what they’re going to say before they said it. Dinklage gives the best and most believable and grounded performance in the film as Steven, a renowned opera composer who hasn’t written anything in five years and is facing a deadline to come up with something, lest he lose the backing of wealthy benefactors.

Steven’s wife Patricia (Anne Hathaway), who was once his psychiatrist, is a controlling clean freak who literally wears a lab coat when she’s scrubbing their posh brownstone in Brooklyn and treats Steven like a child; when Steven asks if they could have sex on a Thursday even though that’s not their normal routine, she patronizes him by saying, “That’s an interesting idea,” but it’s not happening. She also pushes Steven out of the house with the family dog, telling him he’ll have to make some decisions on his own, e.g., what to do with himself once he’s outside.

Cut to Steven in a bar, hemming and hawing about which brand of whiskey to order, when Marisa Tomei’s rough-hewn Captain Katrina — that’s right, Captain Katrina — makes an observation about bar nuts, sidles up to Steven, and it’s game on. (When Steven tells Katrina he’s a composer, she says, “a composter,” because, you know, she’s a salt of the Earth type who wouldn’t know about music.) Next thing you know. Captain Katrina is on her big ol’ tugboat with Steven, clad in a sexy bustier and seducing the writer’s block right out of him.

Even though Katrina has warned Steven she’s addicted to romance and she’s going to be a problem for him, Steven writes an opera with a lead character who is based on … Captain Katrina. As one observer gleefully notes, it’s a “female Sweeney Todd.”

But wait, there’s more. So much more. Patricia’s 18-year-old son (and Steven’s stepson) Julian (Evan Ellison) is hopelessly in love with his 16-year-old girlfriend Tereza (Harlow Jane), the daughter of an immigrant mother, Magdalena (Joanna Kulig), who is Patricia’s house cleaner, not that Patricia really needs a house cleaner, being OCD about scrubbing the place all the time anyway. (The two moms don’t know their children are seeing each other, at least not at first. Why their kids are keeping it a secret is never fully explained.)

Anne Hathaway plays a clean-freak psychiatrist married to the composer.

Anne Hathaway plays a clean-freak psychiatrist married to the composer.

Then there’s Tereza’s stepfather, Trey (Brian D’Arcy James), a rigid, insufferable jerk who fancies himself a lawyer because he’s a court stenographer and who spends every weekend as a Civil War re-enactor, and whether he’s wearing blue or gray, we get the distinct feeling this guy believes the wrong side won the war. When Trey learns of the romance between Tereza and Julian, he decides to press charges of statutory rape, much to the shock and horror of his wife and stepdaughter. Meanwhile, Patricia is losing control — she strips naked in front of a patient and screams at the top of her lungs — while Katrina is delighted at becoming Steven’s muse, even if the character based on Katrina is a psychopath.

This is dicey material for a screwball comedy, even one with dark undertones, and despite the best efforts of the ensemble, “She Came to Me” drifts further and further away from anything approaching reality or relatability. Nearly every major character in this film is exhausting to be around and/or thinly drawn. (Even the two young lovers, who are clearly meant to be sympathetic, are a bit much with their self-awareness and their smug and slightly naïve save-the-world mentality.) Trey is a monster, while both Patricia and Katrina have serious emotional issues that require immediate treatment. There’s just not much humor to be mined from such material.


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