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Review: Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Premise: A sexagenarian office worker (Sally Field) falls for a new and much younger coworker (Max Greenfield). Inspired by a self-help seminar, she pursues the younger man and immerses herself in youth culture and discovers new interests and makes new friends.

What Works: Hello, My Name is Doris at first appears to be a movie like How Stella Got Her Groove Back or Harold and Maude and while it certainly shares elements with those films it gradually reveals itself to be about more than its surface suggests. The movie is led by Sally Field in the title role and the actress provides a terrific performance. Doris is an old woman who has just lost her mother after spending decades taking care of her. Doris is also a hoarder and her therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) as well as Doris’ brother and his wife (Stephen Root and Wendi McLendon-Covey) attempt to unshackle this woman from her belongings. The movie is a terrific portrayal of a woman emerging from solitude and into the world. In many respects this is a coming of age tale but instead of focusing on a woman in her twenties Hello, My Name is Doris centers upon a woman in her sixties. That adds an entirely different dimension to the story and Sally Field gives Doris a complex internal life. In losing her mother, Doris has also lost her sense of purpose and she clings to her collection of random physical objects because of her unspoken realization that many of life’s possibilities have already passed her by. When Doris meets a handsome young man she sees not only romantic potential but also the chance to catch up on the things she missed. Doris pursues this young man with the help of the teenage granddaughter (Isabella Acres) of a close friend, creeping on his Facebook account, learning his interests, and insinuating herself into his life. The movie finds the humor of an old woman in youthful spaces like electronic music concerts and hipster events but the film never holds Doris in contempt. She is quirky but she’s not an idiot and Sally Field’s performance is disarming, getting the audience past the silly conceit of the movie. This film possesses a great deal of empathy for its characters. Even though the romantic relationship isn’t likely to work out the picture does get us to want to see Doris make the human connections that she craves. And the film doesn’t collapse into wish fulfillment either as Doris discovers that her age separates her from these young people in ways that can’t be overcome. Because of that empathy and humanity, Hello My Name is Doris is able to be more than a romantic comedy.

What Doesn’t: There aren’t a whole lot of surprises to Hello, My Name is Doris. It’s fairly obvious from the start that Doris’ affections are not reciprocated and that this relationship is only going to go one way. This is a movie that is distinguished by its details but at bottom Hello, My Name is Doris is a fairly conventional story of a woman in transition. It does that well but the movie is mostly predictable and there isn’t a lot of tension or suspense to the romantic plotline. Stories are often about characters getting into and out of trouble and part of the pleasure of drama is the blood, sweat, and tears required for characters to get out of their situation. Hello, My Name is Doris does a great job of getting its title character into a trap of her own making but it lets her out of that situation a little too easily. Her actions have some pretty terrible consequences and the end of the movie offers an obvious opportunity for contrition and redemption that the filmmakers do not take up. Hello, My Name is Doris has an impressive supporting cast, especially among Doris’ coworkers who are played by the likes of Kumail Nanjiani and Natasha Lyonne, but these actors aren’t given very much to do.

DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted and extended scenes, and trailers.

Bottom Line: Hello, My Name is Doris is a fun little movie with a terrific performance by Sally Field. Although the story adheres to a romantic comedy template, the humanity and character of the movie makes it much more than that.

Episode: #607 (August 14, 2016)