I love when I come across a romantic comedy that does something different. The genre can often showcase the best and worst of cinema. So, when there’s a good rom-com, and especially one that marches to the beat of its own drummer, it’s worth celebrating. She Came to Me, a rom-com with a very distinct take, is one such example. Well cast, filled with good music, and taking a different path towards the ending we all want, there’s a lot to like here with this film.
She Came to Me wants to be about as unique a rom-com as possible, and it achieves that goal more than it doesn’t. The movie threatens to meander at times, but it’s all part of the plan, and it comes together well. The third act is not one you’ll expect in the slightest at the start, which is quite the charming revelation. Even when it’s a bit on the offbeat side, the acting is so good, you won’t mind much at all.
Composer Steven Lauddem (Peter Dinklage) is suffering from a massive bout of writer’s block. Struggling to compose his latest opera, he appears to be at wit’s end. His wife, therapist Patricia Jessup-Lauddem (Anne Hathaway) sends him out of the house one day to shake up his routine. Walking his dog, Steven winds up at a bar, striking up a conversation with tugboat captain Katrina Trento (Marisa Tomei). Taking a tour of her boat, he learns she’s a romance addict, and after a tiny bit of doubt, ends up having a one night stand with her. Like clockwork, Steven’s block lifts, writing a new show based on the encounter. Everyone loves it, including Katrina, who believes she’s his muse and wants to continue the affair.
While Steven is dealing with this situation, his step-son/Patricia’s son Julian (Evan Ellison) is deep in his first love, with classmate Tereza Szyskowski (Harlow Jane). Unbeknownst to them, Tereza’s mother Magdalena (Joanna Kulig) happens to be Steven and Patricia’s housecleaner. She’s thrown off by the power imbalance and class differences, but her husband Trey (Brian d’Arcy James) finds the relationship more objectionable. So, with Steven trying to figure out his situation, not to mention Patricia’s growing interest in religion, Julian and Tereza are navigating theirs as well. How it all comes together is actually pretty sweet, even if it’s a bit on the unlikely side.
This cast is fully invested in the material, with special attention to the main trio. Peter Dinklage, Anne Hathaway, and Marisa Tomei are playing unique figures, especially within this genre. Dinklage gets to be a bit more panicky and less put together than usual, making for some light comedy. Hathaway’s subplot, which builds to something a bit out there, also includes a therapy-related moment that’s probably the most surprising thing in the film. She’s going all out here, which is great to see. As for Tomei, she has the trickiest part in the movie, but pulls it off with aplomb. She’s earnest and open with her desire for love, which fuels the back end of the flick, to some degree. Dinklage and Tomei especially have an interesting chemistry that I enjoyed watching, though Dinklage and Hathawy are very good together, as well. The secondary plot, which features Evan Ellison, Harlow Jane, Joanna Kulig, and Brian d’Arcy James, is also well acted, but their characters are a bit thinner. In particular, Ellison and Jane rise above in depicting a young couple in love. Supporting players here include Chris Gethard, Judy Gold, and more.
Rebecca Miller makes sure that her writing and direction pay more than lip service to the musical aspect of the rom-com. Not only does she have a score from Bryce Dessner that ties in well with the opera, they’ve got a lovely new original song from Bruce Springsteen that plays over the credits. Miller has Dessner and Springsteen elevating the sound of the standard romantic comedy. Her script refuses to go in any of the normal directions, and while she makes you work for it, she has a happy ending up her sleeve.
She Came to Me works way more than it doesn’t, with lots of brownie points for being different. The teenage subplot doesn’t work as well as the main adult one, but it all ties in together nicely. Plus, Miller and company have given me a new Springsteen tune, so that’s just a delight. If you want a rom-com that wants to be unlike most other ones, this is well worth checking out.