Doris Miller (Sally Field) has spent her entire life taking care of her recently departed mother in their cluttered Staten Island home. After John Fremont (Max Greenfield, TV's 'New Girl'), her firm's new art director, actually notices her on the elevator, Doris is smitten. Emboldened by the words of self help guru Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher, HBO's 'Togetherness'), the senior eccentric decides to follow her heart in "Hello, My Name Is Doris."
Cowriter (with Laura Terruso)/director Michael Showalter ("The Baxter"), adapting Terruso's student short 'Doris & the Intern,' have made a film that reminds us of the limitations of snap judgements. This offbeat vehicle for Sally Field reveals a woman who's been largely overlooked and who has a lot to offer those who take the time to really see her. The film isn't without flaws, Doris given ample opportunity to fix her one bad decision yet naggingly not taking it, but it is a largely sweet often funny and hopeful film.
The film opens with an overhead shot of Doris's mother in a casket, her own fate looming. Brother Todd (Stephen Root, "Trumbo") and his wife Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey, "Bridesmaids," "Blended") waste no time bullying her to clear out accumulated junk and sell the house, a prospect which backs Doris into a corner of anxiety. She's more relaxed with her old friends Roz (Tyne Daly, TV's 'Cagney & Lacey'), a widow, and Val (Caroline Aaron, "22 Jump Street"), but when she tells them about John, neither is supportive. It's Roz's granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres, "The Future") who steps in, creating a dummy Facebook page to connect and learn more about him.
And, after Doris's awkward attempts at engaging, all it takes is a copy of a Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters CD on her desk, John's favorite band. Vivian informs Doris that they're playing that weekend and advises wearing neon. Doris, whose hairpiece and wackily assembled attire already pushes the envelope, goes all out. And boy, is she noticed, not only by John, who is, of course, in attendance, but Baby Goya himself (Jack Antonoff), who calls her backstage to see if she'd like to model for the band's next album cover. Williamsburg hipsters embrace the childishly upbeat woman with her own signature style. But after a week of getting less attention at work from John than she expects, Doris is flabbergasted to see him kiss a pretty young woman, Brooklyn (Beth Behrs, TV's '2 Broke Girls'), outside work on Friday night.
Sally Field finds all the right nuances of Doris, a woman who lives in a world of romance novels and the things, like a lone ski, which signify the distant memories of her sheltered life. Williams's glib transformation of 'impossible' to 'I'm possible' is all the fuel she needs to become more aggressive, a naif who cannot decode the more worldly life going on around her. Her costuming is inspired, a bag lady chic moored in vintage. Also good is Greenfield who spins a nice guy character nothing like his television persona. Daly is strong as the maternal pal who doesn't recognize her own limitations. The cast is rounded out by SNL's Kyle Mooney, 'Orange Is the New Black's' Natasha Lyonne and 'Silicon Valley's' Kumail Nanjiani as Doris's coworkers.
The script, though, relies on things like exercise balls for visual/sexual gags and lays on misunderstandings we can see a mile away. A side plot involving a hoarding advisor, Dr. Edwards (Elizabeth Reaser, the "Twilight" series), isn't as illuminating as it should be mainly because her presence is instigated by Todd, a character who the filmmakers appear to play both ways. And while Doris's jealous response to Brooklyn is in character, her failure to fix a wrong done a woman who'd embraced her is not.
"Hello, My Name Is Doris" is a quirky character piece anchored by a charming performance, but one wishes it had been just a little better.
Robin did not see this film.
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