She Came to Me.

Five years after his last opera cast him into depression and writer’s block, composer Steven Lauddem (Peter Dinklage), now married to his therapist, Patricia Jessup-Lauddem (Anne Hathaway), is still struggling before an upcoming deadline.  Encouraged by his wife to take their French bulldog Levi (Levi) and just meander about Brooklyn for inspiration, Steven finds himself seduced by Katrina Trento (Marisa Tomei), a tugboat captain from Baton Rouge addicted to romance who becomes his muse in “She Came to Me.”

Laura's Review: B

I’ve never been much of a fan of writer/director Rebecca Miller’s ("Personal Velocity," "The Ballad of Jack and Rose") films, so her latest is a refreshing surprise, a thoroughly balmy (in a good way) romantic comedy with choice roles for its three leads.  Dinklage, his now salt and pepper hair long and complemented by a beard, has never looked so charmingly downcast, anxious and alarmed, the steel gray Levi a perfect accompaniment.

Patricia, as it turns out, has her own addiction.  She’s a minimalist obsessed with cleaning (an early scene finds Steven composing to the sound of her dust buster, demanding she turn it back on to complete his line in its B Flat).  When she trundles him out their front door, he stops in at a bar, abandoned at 11 a.m. except for Katrina, whose unusual occupation intrigues him so, when she invites him to check out her boat, he follows.  It’s only when they’re inside its homey interior that she informs him she’s so romantically obsessed she’s been accused of stalking.  But when she opens her denim overalls revealing the bustier inside, Steven becomes a willing participant.  Realizing what he’s done, he rushes outside and, startled on the pier, falls into the water where he’s struck by inspiration.

The ensuing opera he begins to write about a female tugboat captain who murders her conquests isn’t going well in rehearsals, though, Steven frustrating his director Susan (Judy Gold) with his too particular musings on the woman’s character coming through in the singer’s delivery.  What’s particularly amusing is that all along, Steven’s been oblivious to a melodrama occurring right beneath his nose, his eighteen year-old stepson Julian (Evan A. Ellison) passionately involved with sixteen year-old Tereza Szyskowski (Harlow Jane), the daughter of their cleaner Magdalena (Joanna Kulig, "Cold War"), whose live-in boyfriend Trey (Brian d'Arcy James, "Spotlight") is a court stenographer determined to charge Julian with statutory rape.  And then he runs into Katrina on his own street, informing him that she has moved to Brooklyn and they can now spend more time together.

Although Miller introduces her teenage subplot awkwardly, she finds the most outrageously romantic way to make these worlds collide involving a Civil War reenactment, a Romeo and Juliet scenario set to ‘Keep on the Sunny Side’ around a tugboat upright piano and an over the top pivot to Catholicism that lends the film its final sight gag.  Director of photography Sam Levy ("Lady Bird") captures the boat leaving New York Harbor in magic hour light, a swoon worthy sight,  Bryce Dessner's ("Cyrano") piano score perfectly setting the tone.

But it is Dinklage who captivates here, a delightfully sexy leading man whose worries disappear when he finally allows himself to come up for air.  He’s beautifully supported by both Tomei and Hathaway, the former an eccentric who becomes more grounded, the latter hilariously taking the opposite route.           

Vertical Entertainment opens "She Came to Me" in theaters on 10/6/23.