Many will flock – or have flocked – to Hello, My Name Is Doris based alone on the star power of Sally Field. Having stayed out of the limelight except to play Mary Todd Lincoln and Spider-Man’s aunt, Field finds a fitting return to classic, unforgettable finesse with her role as meek accountant and closeted hoarder Doris Miller.
Doris’ co-workers often ignore her, but not for malicious purposes. She simply blends in, and she’s okay with that. Granted, the recent passing of her sickly mother along with family hectoring has pushed Doris into a state of quiet, coping grievance. However, her heart is aflutter when she starts crushing on a younger new hire named John (New Girl’s Max Greenfield).
Sally Field owns her role as if she’s been prepping on the sidelines for quite some time. It’s a full-fledged, meaty character that has a cohesive outline (adapted from co-writer Laura Terruso’s short film Doris & the Intern) and offers plenty of trust and space for Field to have fun.
She lets loose with Doris’ quirkier attributes and during unpredictable out-of-her-element risks (a late-night electronica concert is a pure hoot), and the actress doesn’t discount heavier moments of stress either. A boiling point during an attempted clean-up of Doris’ house (a house she shared with her late mom) is a scene with validation and passion from a defensive Field, with equal weight-lifting from side characters who are Doris’ pushy supporters (Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Elizabeth Reaser). Hello, My Name Is Doris is a wonderful platform for the film’s talented cast to showcase their efforts (including Peter Gallagher as a scene stealing self-help guru, Tyne Daly as Doris’ honest best friend, and Isabella Acres as Daly’s spunky granddaughter).
What initially caught my attention about Hello, My Name Is Doris was the filmmaker attached. Absurdist comic Michael Showalter has been seen on MTV’s The State, Comedy Central’s Stella, and Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, but he’s also established himself as a nifty filmmaker who can simultaneously embrace and mock loveable details. The same tricks he carried out with his 2005’s The Baxter, a sweet-natured rom-com that spins the formula on its ear, are applied with his latest indie. He illustrates things (such as generational gaps) in a way that are irresistible to our heart and also worthy of coyly giggling at.
If there are any risks in Hello, My Name Is Doris for Showalter, it’s that the story is a slight step away from the comedic irony and absurdities he’s used to. This is much more human than most of his work, and I congratulate him for branching out. If his intention was to be a bit more serious and expand on his ideas, he’s done that to an endearing effect.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie