October 6, 2023
She Came To Me, the film for which Bruce Springsteen wrote and recorded "Addicted to Romance" featuring Patti Scialfa, officially and exclusively opens in theaters today. (Click here to purchase tickets.) Here's the Letters To You review of and report on the film, along with an extra-deep dive into "Addicted to Romance"'s role in it, written by our contributing writer Caroline Madden, author of Springsteen as Soundtrack: The Sound of the Boss in Film and Television:
Bruce Springsteen is certainly not the first musician you associate with the opera genre, but his original song in Rebecca Miller’s romantic dramedy She Came to Me, entitled “Addicted to Romance,'' harmonizes beautifully with this eccentric tale of a creatively stifled opera composer. Despite her "secret wish" to have Springsteen write the end-credits song, Miller told Variety she initially hesitated to ask him "because I felt it was so unlikely, and frankly I was a bit shy.” However, with encouragement from the film's composer, Bryce Dessner, Miller shared her film with Springsteen, and he was inspired to write "Addicted to Romance."
The heartfelt song is mostly from the perspective of Peter Dinklage’s character Steven, a floppy-haired opera composer suffering from writer’s block, whose one-night stand with a tugboat captain named Katrina (a nearly unrecogonizable Marisa Tomei, who always excels at playing characters with a gritty edge) enlivens him with the creative spark he needs for his next production. He’s fascinated by her hardscrabble gumption and independence that juxtaposes his haughty, cosmopolitan social circle in Manhattan. “My muse, the music you whispered in my ear reminds me of who I am,” Springsteen rasps in the song, referencing this life-affirming, artistically invigorating romance between Steven and the fierce Katrina.
A high-strung therapist with a cleaning compulsion, Steven’s wife Patricia sharply contrasts Katrina's dirt-under-the-fingernails type of woman. Anne Hathaway’s sophisticated performance avoids the stereotype of a nagging wife and makes Patricia's curious epiphany to become a nun feel genuine. In one sequence, Patricia lays down on a bed in the nun’s quarters and stares at the sunlight bouncing on the wall, absorbing the pristine, clutter-free life for which she's been searching. It’s one of the most unexpectedly beautiful moments in the film.
The narrative of She Came to Me often has a theatrical quality, especially in the plotline of Patricia's son Julian (Evan Ellison,) his girlfriend Tereza (Harlow Jane,) her exaggeratedly villainous stepfather (Brian D’Arcy James,) and her well-intentioned but submissive immigrant mother, Magdalena (Joanna Kulig.) The story unfolds with dramatic coincidences and extravagant gestures that interconnect the characters, leading up to a finale that reunites the star-crossed lovers in a whimsical and convenient manner. This hammy yet undeniably charming conclusion seems ripped from the pages of one of Steven's operas.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Addicted to Romance,” on the other hand, is quite the opposite of Steven’s flowery arias—a short but impactful ballad that mirrors the other parts of the film that feel like a more grounded character study. The song's title is derived from Katrina's admission of being a sex and love addict, often indulging in grand “romantic” gestures such as stalking or intense erotic encounters with strangers. Although some lyrics represent Steven's point of view, the choice of Bruce Springsteen, known for his empathetic portrayals of the working class, resonates more with Katrina's salt-of-the-earth character. Depicted as the "neighborhood's broken daughter" in Springsteen's song, Katrina mirrors many of his characters from Western Stars: lonely, transient individuals with a desperate need for companionship.
The lyrical images of whiskey, a jukebox, and bonding over a cold beer vividly recreate Katrina and Steven's initial encounter in a dive bar - an ordinary, rustic setting often found in Springsteen's songs. The graceful simplicity of “Addicted to Romance” highlights the stark difference between Katrina's humble daily life and Steven's glamorous opera career, making her all the more fascinating to him. She Came to Me mirrors this disparity in the offbeat visual style that shifts between two distinct tones and storylines. These alterations, marked by changes in aspect ratio, result in an unconventional and somewhat challenging viewing experience.
"Addicted to Romance" plays against an end-credits montage that unifies the characters as they enter the next chapter of their lives. As the tugboat gently bobs along New York City's late afternoon skyline, we hear Bruce Springsteen’s soft vocals accompanied by a minimal piano arrangement. His lyrics are wistful, capturing the bittersweet beauty of fleeting moments between loved ones that leave a lasting imprint on the heart. Patti Scialfa's delicate voice alongside Springsteen's rugged tone creates ethereal harmonies, layering the song with an intimate tenderness. Their voices blend together with the weather-worn sound of real-life lovers who have lived through countless hardships and happy days together. Scialfa is credited alongside Springsteen, solidifying "Addicted to Romance'' as a duet and mirroring the film’s themes of finding your perfect match.
"Tonight I get all the love that I've missed, from you in just one glance... And if this isn't love, my dear, it's more than what we planned... more than just chance,” Springsteen and Scialfa sing, words that resonate deeply with Steven and Katrina's unexpected yet profound connection. Their meeting was serendipitous, but Steven finds himself completely captivated by her. The concluding strings orchestrated by Bryce Denner, combined with the choral elements, has a melancholic weight that reflects the unpredictable fragility of our lives, especially our romantic relationships.
It's no surprise that Bruce Springsteen felt a connection to this film. He understands how love can hit you like a lightning bolt - both in your personal life and as an artist. As he grew older, themes of marriage and family took center stage in albums such as The River, Tunnel of Love, Lucky Town, and Working on a Dream. A departure from his typical milieu of Jersey Shore summers or blue-collar anguish, these songs reveal an unabashedly sentimental side of his artistry. His fascination with the splendors and difficulties of romantic relationships has lasted throughout his career. “Addicted to Romance” fits alongside other songs such as “My Beautiful Reward” and “Kingdom of Days” that celebrate the humble joys of sharing your life with a loved one.
Rebecca Miller's film fluctuates between moments of subtle elegance and theatricality, reflecting the peculiar enchantment of falling in love. "Addicted to Romance,” on the other hand, is a steady anchor that solidifies the film’s romantic themes. Ultimately, She Came to Me is about how finding your partner is a bewildering and uncertain journey marked by turbulent emotions and high stakes, but also moments of gentle beauty.
[For more on "Addicted to Romance," click here to read our initial report, posted upon the recording's official release.]