Larry Showalter and Laura Terruso’s screenplay, ‘Hello, My Name Is Doris’ starring Sally Field as the old maid, dotty, hoarder who falls for the much younger John (Max Greenfield) at work, is an enjoyable film. But, while it is a cute film with laughs, it also is a film with tears and sadness. Doris lives on Staten Island and has to take the ferry across to Manhattan along with trains to get to her job. At work, she sits in a cubicle in the accounting department and is past her prime. Doris had been her mother’s caretaker and dear mom passed away recently. Doris now has her life ahead of her but clings to the past in their cluttered home in Staten Island. She gave up her life to take care of her mother, and both were hoarders.
Doris’ brother, Todd (Stephen Root) sends her to a shrink (Elizabeth Reaser) to help Doris adjust to life alone and to get Doris to de-clutter, hopefully, so he can sell the family home. His wife, Cynthia (Wendi Mc Lendon-Covey) is adamant. The home belongs to both her husband and to Doris. Doris is being selfish. “Get out.”
But, life changes as Doris meets a young man on the subway and is instantly smitten. OMG. And there he is in her elevator at work. John (Max Greenfield) is the new Art Director who has moved to New York from Malibu, California. At the chance meeting in the elevator, Doris begins to fantasize about him, and that fantasy is very real to her. She feels a spark. She is determined to have that initial spark she felt turn into a fire. A bon fire! Hmmmmm.
It is obvious that Doris does not have a perspective as to who she is. She is a senior well into her sixties and this young man must be in his early thirties. They are generations apart. But, Doris is a shy, lonely, free spirit who lives in her own world anyway. She dresses like Helena Bonham Carter in an eclectic mix-match hodge-podge. It works. She can have floral prints and plaid together with red high heels. I give 5 stars for the wardrobe which was vintage and very well put together by costume designer, Rebecca Gregg. Doris has a large, ratty hair piece atop her head which has a bow wrapped around it, and one or two pair of fabulous vintage cat’s eyeglasses with patterns. She looks “artsy-fartsy.” And, John is intrigued, at least intrigued enough to have her as a friend. “She’s a good weird.”
There are many whimsical and funny scenes in which Doris is rendered speechless whenever she is around John at work. She goes into fantasy mode and pictures herself doing things with John. Those scenes were not plausible and embarrassing for Doris. Field’s character is not Ruth Gordon’s “Maude.” I think back to “Harold and Maude” that stunningly funny film starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort from 1971. Those scenes were plausible. But that was because Ruth Gordon’s Maude was such a bizarre and over-the-top character, and it worked. Maude was 81 and Harold was 20. Both learned from each other. There was not so much give and take in this film. Doris was not set up to be his teacher. She was definitely older, but not wiser.
In “Hello, My Name Is Doris”, it was sad to see Doris investing so much time in a relationship that could not work as a romantic relationship. Doris asks advice from her best friend’s, Roz’s (Tyne Daly) granddaughter, Vivian, (Isabella Acres). We have advice for a sixty plus something coming from a 13 year-old as teen Vivian becomes “Dear Abbey” to Doris. She helps Doris plot to find more about John on Facebook and the fun and also the problems arise.
Doris finds John’s interests which include “Baby Goya’s” electronic music. So, Doris buys a CD and of course has ear buds on and is listening to the CD in her cubicle which gives John and Doris a common interest to build on. Build what exactly? Doris and John meet at the Baby Goya concert. Implausible but fun.
A sub plot to the “wishful thinking romance” on Doris’ part is that her brother, Todd and his wife, Cynthia are determined to get Doris to de-clutter and move out of the family home. Todd has sent Doris to a shrink to help facilitate. Will Doris tell the shrink about her romantic fantasies? No. She has her thirteen-year-old adviser in Vivian and self-help Guru played by Peter Gallagher who tells Doris, “Impossible” becomes “I’m Possible.”
Doris is like a child and perhaps she is picking up where her own life had left off before she had to take care of her mother. It was sad and we commiserate and feel Doris’ pain of unrequited love. We empathize, but much becomes outrageous and embarrassing in later scenes. Sally Field’s marvelous acting talent was not enough to overcome some of these scenes. Because the story line and director Showalter did not paint Field as a bizarre “Maude” type, it did not work. And, Doris must make the unfathomable leap from a clinging, conniving, adorable but dotty old gal into a seductress, and then into a normal person. But, the film was three-quarters over by then. Something just did not come together story wise. Life must go on, and I am not giving plot points. Things take a turn and in their own way work out. It was not Doris’ plan but perhaps a better choice. It is a coming of age theme for a senior.
Showalter’s “Hello, My Name Is Doris” is a funny, sad, and entertaining film. Showalter also includes a fine supporting cast worthy of “The Office” and other sitcoms as a good diversion. Beth Behrs (from “Two Broke Girls”) is great as John’s girlfriend, Brooklyn. He has an assortment of other characters who work in the office which add to the charisma of Doris. We laugh, we empathize and we feel embarrassed. But, that is life. Life is not perfect between people the same age let alone people generations apart. Field brought a wide emotional range to this film. Her fine acting could not overcome the holes in the story. But Sally Field made the ride enjoyable.
Check your local theater listings for “Hello, My Name Is Doris.”