There is much secondhand embarrassment to be felt in Hello, My Name is Doris, a cross-generational independent film from comedian Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer). I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. This quirky film has – unsurprisingly – a quirky lead in Doris (Sally Field), who dons cat-eye glasses, big hair and lipstick. She’s shy, really awkward and a little lost. If you didn’t already know that Sally Field was playing this character, you’d think she was an newly out-of-college hipster, not in her sixties.
Grieving the recent loss of her mother, Doris perks up with the arrival of a new co-worker, John (New Girl’s Max Greenfield). Unlike his other hipster, millennial, yuccie (whatever other term/label you want to call 20 and 30 somethings these days) counterparts, John is kind and open, acknowledging that while Doris is kind of odd and doesn’t quite fit in at their office, she’s a “good weird.”
A crush is formed, and Doris – with the help of her best friend’s granddaughter and some Facebook stalking – creates a series of scenarios to get John to notice her. It works, and a bond is created between the two co-workers.
Doris’s blossoming relationship with John is one of many layers to the film, the obvious one being generational differences and how we perceive the generations before and after us. The hipster cliches get tiresome, as do some of Doris’s more ridiculous moments. However, Field deserves much praise for grounding her character and making sure she always felt like a real person – not a caricature. Many films don’t showcase older women as lustful and desirous without branding them as “cougars,” but this film doesn’t do that, diving into Doris’s daydream fantasies without hesitancy. Humorous they may be, but they are a genuine reflection of her character’s honest desires. One thing I found interesting is that even though John is good-looking, Doris is not just some cougar looking for a boy toy, but a woman who sees a kind man who is living his life to the fullest and she wants the same thing for herself now.
That brings up the fact that Doris has led sort of a half-existence most of her life. It’s hard to imagine that someone who looks as vibrant she does never venturing out, and it’s not until after her mother dies and she meets John that she feels encouraged to be more outgoing and do more than hoarding junk and taking advantage of free food at local book signings.
Hello, My Name Is Doris is a tender romantic comedy with a wonderful performance from Sally Field that makes you wonder why we don’t see her starring in more films. The film is bolstered by a great supporting cast; I particularly enjoyed Tyne Daly as Doris’s best friend who is sarcastic and honest, but extremely caring – a perfect counterpart to the whimsical Doris.
The film’s quirks may not set it apart from other similar and arguably better independent comedies. Yet, nothing can stop me from say that this sweet, little, weird film is a pure delight.
Hello, My Name Is Doris is now playing in select theaters.