Director: Michael Showalter
Screenwriters: Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter
Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Tyne Daly, and Beth Behrs
When was the last time you walked into a movie theater without any expectations for what you were about to see? At the risk of becoming paradoxical, I am going to try to write a review about a film that was aided by how little I initially knew about it. Now as a critic, I know I am walking a fine line by recommending a film that I believe should be seen without bias, but also subsequently creating said bias by writing about it. I write my reviews in the hopes that I can help steer audiences towards good films and away from bad ones. That task is oftentimes burdened by providing context and information about films that create expectations within my audience. The good news is that most films can handle a certain level of expectation, but occasionally one comes around that yearns to be discovered without too much earnestness. With that, I issue this warning: Hello, My Name is Doris is not groundbreaking or truly that original but what it is, is simply a film worth seeing. If that interests you, go see it and read the rest of this review later. If you want to know why, then read on!
Hello, My Name is Doris is the story of Doris (Sally Field) an aging accounts manager for a marketing company in New York City. Embodying the generation gap as the sole sixty-something in an office full of twenty and thirty-somethings, Doris continues to commute via ferry and train from Staten Island every day as she has for the previous thirty-two years. With the death of her long-term invalid mother, Doris’s loneliness sends her to a self-help seminar where guru Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher) convinces Doris of her “Possibility,” leading her to pursue the affection of a newly hired, and much younger, co-worker John (Max Greenfield).
This is a silly, little movie, but it does wear its heart on its sleeve, which Doris may actually do with some of the crazy sweaters she wears. The film features a wide range of relationships including romantic, parental, fraternal, and friendship, and with just a 95-minute running time, it manages to have something poignant to say about all of them. This is most evident in Doris’s scenes with her good friend Roz (Tyne Daly).
Relationships thematically ground Hello, My Name is Doris, but acting is certainly this movie’s strong suit. The best actors, and I use that term with specificity, are those who can truly play anything. Julia Roberts is arguably one of America’s most well-known and popular actresses, but she is by no means anywhere near the best. She has made an outrageously successful career out of recycling the same character into scores of performances, and hey she’s even won an Oscar for it. On the other hand, you have someone like Sally Field who in this film embodies a unique, quirky, and adorably odd character that is nothing like anyone she has ever portrayed before. Her performance as Doris is a magnificently effective revelation on the potential invisibility of middle age. We are forced to question why we laugh at Doris’s choices to fit in or look young. We are also forced to feel the desperateness that inspires her decisions and her perpetual daydreams. This is a well-rounded and outstandingly effective performance by an actress who knows a thing or two about the art form. Writer/Director Michael Showalter realized what he had in Field and gave her the spotlight. The result is a film far better than it would be with the wrong actor in the title role. Few actors have the power to elevate generic material to the level that Field does with this film; Meryl Streep comes to mind, and the list may end there. Overall, Hello, My Name is Doris compares well with female-centric films about the search for happiness in the vein of Amélie or Happy-Go-Lucky, only in this case we get a slightly older and more awkward point-of-view but the same amount of heart. B+
Hello My Name is Doris is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes.