SHARE
Peter Dinklage and Anne Hathaway endure individual and marital crises in "She Came to Me."

It was 21 years ago that I went to the then-new Magnolia Theater in Dallas and saw Personal Velocity. An anthology film with three separate stories featuring deftly sketched portraits of women in tight spots, it didn’t have a bad section and had one piercing one (the one with Fairuza Balk encountering a boy who’s been tied up and tortured). I saw it and tipped first-time director Rebecca Miller for great things, especially after I heard she was the daughter of the great playwright Arthur Miller.

It hasn’t really worked out that way, but she has done some fine work since then. Her latest film, She Came to Me is a pleasing farce that lands in our multiplexes this week.

Peter Dinklage plays Steven Lauddem, an acclaimed opera composer who’s been in a professional and personal crisis since his last opera flopped. After falling into a deep depression and marrying his psychotherapist Patricia (Anne Hathaway), he’s working on his next opera and is so paralyzed with indecision that his librettist (Aalok Mehta) quits in disgust. Patricia forces him to take a walk with their Boston terrier, so he walks into a bar, strikes up a conversation with a tugboat captain named Katrina (Marisa Tomei), and winds up having sex with her on her boat. As he flees the scene and falls into the ocean en route, the music starts flowing again from his brain.

Giovanni's Web Ad (300x250)

There’s a lot more business than this: The erotomaniac Katrina is deeply moved when she hears Steven’s new opera that’s based on her and starts stalking him. Meanwhile, the germ-phobic Patricia seems in need of therapy her own self — when she sees that her husband has crashed into bed with his shoes still on, she screams at him, sobs, and spends several minutes obsessively scrubbing her hands. The only characters with level heads are Patricia’s teenage son Julian (Evan Ellison) and his high-school girlfriend Tereza (Harlow Jane). Sadly, Tereza’s father (Brian D’Arcy James) is one of those ultra-possessive dads who learns that his daughter is having sex and immediately moves to have Julian thrown in prison on a stat rape charge.

Katrina’s addiction to romantic comedy movies and Patricia’s sudden urge to become a Catholic nun strike me as arbitrary developments by a writer with ungrounded ideas, and Miller doesn’t have anything funny or insightful to say about male artists and the women who become their muses. The bigger issue for me is Steven’s opera, which has the same title as this movie. The staging of She Came to Me is minimalist, and I hate minimalist stagings of operas. Miller has nothing to say about this played-out trend, either. The music is by Bryce Dessner of the folk-rock band The National, and I’m not loving the classical phase that he’s going through right now. (He also did the forgettable songs for the Dinklage vehicle Cyrano.) You don’t believe the rapturous reception that greets Steven’s new opera and gets his career back on track.

The felicities here are the less expected ones. Miller spends as much energy showing us the operation of a tugboat as she does with the creative process of a classical composer, and she manages to engineer a climax at a Civil War reenactment without it feeling forced. The different plot threads give all the actors something to play (Joanna Kulig, the Polish star of Cold War, does a fine turn in English as Tereza’s overprotective mother), and the action is diverting even as you’re wondering where it’s headed. The way it’s all tied up is a delightful surprise, too. She Came to Me isn’t great art, but it’s a pleasing diversion.

She Came to Me
Starring Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, and Anne Hathaway. Written and directed by Rebecca Miller. Rated R.

LEAVE A REPLY