Hello, My Name Is Doris
2016, R, 95 min. Directed by Michael Showalter. Starring Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Tyne Daly, Beth Behrs, Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Natasha Lyonne, Kumail Nanjiani, Peter Gallagher, Isabella Acres.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., March 18, 2016
The heart wants what it wants in this gently lovesick dramedy about a guileless sexagenarian fittingly named Doris (Field) who decides to romantically pursue a much younger male co-worker after a chance encounter in a crowded elevator. With her cat-eye glasses and ubiquitous big bow in a messy pile-up of hair, Doris is more huggable stray than prowling cougar as she applies her feminine wiles to ingratiate herself with the seemingly clueless John (Greenfield). While character consistency occasionally falls short in the screenplay by Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter (who also directed), the movie admirably never apologizes for Doris’ amorous ambition, no matter how unlikely its consummation may be. Is this sixtysomething woman who’s besotted with the office hottie a little deluded? Yes, without a doubt. Is she pathetic for thinking he’ll reciprocate her feelings for him? Definitely not. In her journey of self-discovery (yes, this is one of those kinds of movies), Doris intuitively decides this infatuation may be her last chance to experience magic in a life mostly spent caring for a sickly mother and hoarding everything possible for fear of losing something precious. In some ways, this is her raised middle finger to the world, although it’s unlikely this meek person has ever actually flipped anyone off. As Maude wisely said to her wide-eyed Harold in the movie's seminal May-December love story, “Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.”
As the goofily endearing Doris, Field is perfect. She makes this movie work. It’s hard to believe this actress began her career as an industry joke: a boy-crazy surfer; a flying nun; the girl with something extra. Luckily, something miraculous happened when she found parts requiring more than a perky smile, leaving us breathless in performances that eradicated all memory of Gidget and Sister Bertrille. She was – and always will be – Sybil, Norma Rae, Edna Spalding, Mary Lincoln. When there’s an honest connection between Field and the character she plays, stand back: It’s an awesome thing to behold. That’s what happens in Hello, My Name Is Doris. In Field’s ever-capable hands, Doris is a thing with feathers, eternally hopeful in her quest for love in the twilight of her life. This wonderful, silly old fool doesn’t need your pity, doesn’t require your sympathy. Once she gets under your skin, you understand her completely. And you like her. You really like her.