This was originally published out of SXSW 2016. Hello, My Name Is Doris arrives in theaters today.
Oh man, Hello, My Name Is Doris is a charmer. This is one of the warmest, most appealing films of the past few years, and although it's likely to be described with words like "unconventional" and "quirky," the thing it is most is authentic. Well, that and delightful.
Sally Field plays Doris, who lives in a Staten Island home she shared with her recently deceased mother. Doris and her mom both hoarded, and her brother (Stephen Root) and sister-in-law (Wendi McLendon-Covey) want her to clean out all the junk and sell the home, a scheme Doris is resisting with stubborn resentment despite the gentle guidance of her therapist (Elizabeth Reaser). Doris is an anti-age discrimination holdout at an only recently hip fashion magazine where she's worked for years, and where all of her cool asshole coworkers (Natasha Lyonne, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Wisocky, Rich Sommer) openly disdain her. Until new hire John Fremont (Max Greenfield) arrives, a man as open-hearted and free-spirited as Doris herself, and she finds herself massively crushing on the handsome, young designer. John happily opens his social circle to the fun-loving Doris, and she finds herself spending more time with this thirty-year-old man than with her own best friend (an absolutely tremendous Tyne Daly, sharp and hilarious in every scene).
There's so much happening in Hello, My Name Is Doris: an examination of the powerlessness Doris feels that brings her to hoard, the co-dependent caregiver relationship she shared with her mother, the way we begin to forget about single women in their 60s because they don't fit into the convenient grandmother box we'd like them to inhabit. Doris entertains several fantasies of making out with John, and for each scene, the audience laughed nervously, as if the notion that a man who looks like Max Greenfield could find Sally Field - fit, gorgeous, exuberant Sally Field - sexually attractive.
But this never feels like a weighty "issues" kind of movie. Writer/director Michael Showalter certainly has a way with jokes, and Hello, My Name Is Doris is flat-out hilarious. It manages to feel both light and substantial at once - easy and likable, fun to watch while still lasting. And Sally Field's performance as Doris will surely be one of my favorites of 2015. Doris is herself, simply and purely. She is sad but hopeful, shy but fun, somehow cool as hell though completely terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing in social settings. Her friendship with Tyne Daly is the anchor of the film, a comfortable, decades-long companionship that we should all be so lucky to share at any age. And Max Greenfield is his usual gorgeous goofball charmer, a handsome, professionally successful young man who is as lost and as wide-open as the weird, quiet, old lady he befriends.
Sally Field's incredibly lucky to have landed a role like Doris - a character of nuance and substance and utter celebration - and Michael Showalter is incredibly lucky to have landed an actress of such perfect esteem and effect as Sally Field. But really, we're the lucky ones here, because Hello, My Name Is Doris is nothing if not a gift.