Film Review: Hello, My Name is Doris

Contemporary rom-com with Sally Field in another stellar performance works charmingly, if occasionally over-the-top, as an amiable female spin on the recent 'The Intern.' Again, it’s not so much a battle of the sexes as it is of generations.
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OK, my name is Doris, but that is not why Hello, My Name Is Doris registered as largely delightful, in spite of some sitcom, overdone flashes. Michael Showalter’s film offers another light and occasionally goofy take on a generational culture clash as both sides of the age divide suggest a narrowing of the gap, in spite of some romantic interference. There are, in a nod to unintended topicality, hints here of what could be called the Bernie Sanders phenomenon of Millennials unexpectedly embracing septuagenarians.

As an additional treat, viewers of a certain age and gender will be “tickled pink” (as the hoary saying goes) by the themes of aging and arrested development that are humorously and sensitively embodied in the film’s sixty-something heroine, Doris (another triumph for Sally Field). Her character is a seemingly hopeless, love-starved Staten Island spinster and lifer in a dreary Manhattan accounting job.

Younger audiences should perk up to a big overlay of Brooklyn hipness as a newly love-struck Doris is pulled into those idealistic Millennial circles. A broader base beyond the older crowd could loom.

Field is front and center the film’s life-force. Her Doris favors tasteless accessories (hats, scarves, costume jewelry) from another era and from fashion magazines of the ’40s or ’50s. As tackiness incarnate, she makes a fashion statement that might be described as late frump.

Doris’ modest Staten Island house, where she cared for her recently deceased mother, is an extension of her taste and m.o. Also no fashion breakthrough, its packed walls are practically breaking from her compulsive hoarding and collection of junk and kitsch, the kind that flourishes at the yard sales, thrift shops and hot-off-the-street bargains that are clearly Doris’ shopping haunts.

Nor has Doris’ long-held accounting job provided an uplift, as she toils in data entry at a Manhattan-based company only now beginning to shows signs of entering the 21st century. Enter young, adorable, polite new hire John (Max Greenfield), just brought in from Malibu, California, no less, as the company’s new, hip art director. Doris and John have a brief encounter in the elevator and his looks, manner and openness generate fantasies for Doris that will take her to new places, both emotional and geographical. Obsessive and life-changing roads lie ahead in her stalled life.

Catapulted by what becomes a consuming crush (the first one in a lifetime of immersion in romance novels and caring for Mom), Doris is determined to self-improve and has family and friends who both help and hinder. More significant than the motivational speaker/self-help guru Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher) she seeks out are best pal Roz (Tyne Daly), a supportive Staten Island neighbor about as staunchly New York and tough as the nearby Statue of Liberty, and Roz’s computer-savvy 13-year-old granddaughter Viv (Isabella Acres), who brings Doris to the marvels and dangers of Facebook. Nemeses include vile, bullying, bossy Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Doris’ sister-in-law who deplores the mess in Doris’ house only because she wants husband Todd (Stephen Root), Doris’ bland brother, to get her to clean up and get out of the house so it can be sold and enrich the family coffers. Not just henpecked to death, Todd is an ingrate with no appreciation of the long-term care that Doris gave their late mother.

As Doris and John’s office friendship grows, Doris grows bolder, even as she remains blind to the nature of John’s warm and courteous California-style attention. Thanks to Viv’s Facebook coaching, Doris discovers John’s account on the site, learns about his favorite band, and schemes to run into him at the band’s Brooklyn concert (hip Williamsburg, of course). At the rock club, Doris, in her usual vintage clothing (a habit to her, but flat-out hip to the other attendees and to the band) becomes a center of attention.

In the midst of Doris’ growing passion for John, she discovers he has a girlfriend. Her name is Brooklyn (Beth Behrs) and she’s very Brooklyn-appropriate as a young, hip and attractive performer. Matters turn icky and tangled, with ups and downs for all three in this oddball triangle. If the ending isn’t fairytale-perfect, it’s full of little surprises and lessons enjoyably learned—by Doris and the audience.

Field deserves most of the praise for Hello, My Name Is Doris being so satisfying, but hats off (tacky Doris-style or not) to the great casting, art direction, and certainly to co-screenwriters Laura Terruso and director Showalter, working from Terruso’s short film. Locations look great and authentic, but New York’s production community should note that the film was primarily shot (some New York pickup exteriors aside) in L.A. Overall, this merry mash-up of AARP members and tech-savvy carefree hipsters is fun and entertaining in a determinedly non-groundbreaking way.

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