The cinematic schizophrenic nature of “She Came to Me” cancels out the sweetness that comes with a romantic comedy and the deep emotional waves associated with a dark drama. Director/writer Rebecca Miller’s mashup ends up caught in a limbo of failed good intentions.
Her attempts at a modern romantic comedy focus on the marriage of Steven Lauddem (Peter Dinklage), a brilliant composer enveloped in a creative funk, and his wife (Anne Hathaway), Patricia, a therapist obsessed with cleaning. They met when she was his therapist, and that doctor-patient situation continues to dominate their lives.
In an attempt to find inspiration, Steven goes for a walk that takes him to a neighborhood bar. His efforts to drown his sorrows are interrupted by Katrina Trento (Marisa Tomei), a sex addict tugboat captain looking or a little companionship. An afternoon of rocking the boat gives Steven an idea for his new opera.
If that wasn’t complicated enough, Steven and Patricia’s son, Julian (Evan Ellison), is sleeping with the daughter of their cleaning lady. This sends the teenage girl’s father (Brian d’Arcy James) into a panic because his daughter is underage, and he wants Julian arrested for rape.
All of these elements have the potential to be strong dramatic threads. The lack of commitment by Miller to the genre keeps stopping the dramatic flow. What Miller has created are two dysfunctional families who have their worlds complicated by another dysfunctional individual. The fact Miller has made each character so brutally flawed keeps deflecting any attempts at the light comedy that would have elevated the rom-com part of the film.
It starts with Hathaway’s character who is too emotionally unstable to help herself let alone patients. She is shown constantly cleaning and looking to rid her life of clutter. This leads to a need by her to turn to a life as a nun. All of her mental gymnastics come crashing down in front of one of her patients.
Steven’s lack of empathy for others results in his turning an afternoon tryst into a public display through his musical creation. He shows little regard for the woman who has openly confessed she has a sexual addiction that she can’t control. His success is tainted by the cold nature of his actions.
The situation with the teen lovers should have been the focal point to elevate the film to a more palatable plain. This doesn’t happen because the solution to their dilemma is by far the worst possible scenario. There should have been more focus on their relationship as it is really the cornerstone for any chance of the film finding rom-com status.
Miller kills that by painting the concerned father as some kind of legal zealot. He has learned just enough about the law while working as a court stenographer to know what the teens are doing is legally wrong. His actions become muddled as Miller looks to paint the character as being out of touch with the 21st Century because of his participation in Civil War reenactments.
Instead of trying to show the quirkiness of these flawed people, Miller keeps guiding the film into darker corners. Then she shows an inability to get the characters back into the light.
Her failings as a director and a writer are magnified by the performance turned in by Tomei. There have always been doubters who considered her Oscar win for the 1992 release of “My Cousin Vinny” as being a mistake. Her work in “She Came to Me” shows that Tomei does have the acting skills to collect Hollywood’s top acting honors.
Except for Tomei’s performance, “She Came to Me” comes across as an emotional muddled mess. The majority of the characters are either unlikable or underdeveloped. It is another example of a long list of productions where the film suffers because the writer and director are the same person.
Another set of eyes might have seen that Dinklage needed a more textured role, Hathaway should have been less of a caricature and the young lovers had to be more romantic and less dramatic.
As it stands, “She Came to Me” tries too hard to be both drama and light comedy. The result is a miss on both accounts.
The film is currently playing in local theaters.
She Came to Me
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, Brian d’Arcy James, Joanna Kulig.
Director: Rebecca Miller
Rated: R for language, suggestive material, sexual references
Running time: 101 minutes.