Hello, My Name Is Doris

Hello, My Name is Doris [2016] is Michael Showalter’s latest film starring Sally Field as the eponymous Doris. Doris is a Staten Island spinster who works at a generically hip Manhattan office for a generically hip company called Northeastern Apparel Co. How generically hip is Northeastern Apparel Co.? They’re so generically hip that they’re replacing all their chairs with exercise balls. (Between you, me and the lamppost, they won’t know what hit them when standing desks hit the scene!) The film follows Doris as she develops an office crush on the new Art Director John Fremont (Max Greenfield).

No Need to Reinvent the Wheel... Doris is a pretty simple story. It’s also a familiar story. Yet, this is not its appeal and to judge it on this rubric would be unfair. Doris is a story about a specific kind of women. She is the kind of woman who always did what she was supposed to do. She took care of her mother. She clocked in and clocked out. She did Thanksgiving with her girlfriends. She did all these things as the years passed her by and at sixty-something, after her mother’s passing, she has a house full of tchotchkes and not much else. Doris is a film that taps into something base and animalistic: it’s about schoolgirl crushes and how they can drive us crazy irrespective of age; it’s about how those tiny gestures from a crush end up meaning the world; it’s about breaking out of habits and exploring new ground and the corollaries of these actions; it’s about the kind of women that seldom gets any attention at all save for the passing stereotype inserted for a cheap joke. Hello, My Name is Doris is nothing but sympathetic to the women like Doris and this is its appeal.

Que Sera, Sera... Sally Field. She’s the reason to show up and the reason to stay. She is why Doris is endearing. She is the reason why I’ve had goofy grins on my face as I watched this film. Field plays Doris with a childlike wonder that makes her more than just a spinster cat lady. She’s a flawed human and, like anyone, she too can let her emotions carry her away. And it’s watching Doris do things like Facebook stalk John; watching her buy a bunch of his favorite albums; watching her dance, by herself, in her bedroom, like an adorable idiot, to his favorite music that makes Doris feel familiar and real. The Doris character is further developed by the adventurous costume design behind her wardrobe. Doris has a larger than life style and Sally Field wears the shit out of Doris’s quirky outfits. She would fit right in with the stylish ladies over at Advanced Style. Doris, at heart, is happy and adventurous and this joy is reflected in how she dresses, which serves to comment on how much age really is an irrelevant number.

Commitment Issues... Hello, My Name is Doris is quintessentially a New York City movie; and NYC is the birthplace of a lot of cultures, but for better or for worse, it’s also home to a lot of hipsters. In this vein, Showalter and co-writer Laura Terruso offer up a healthy dose of self-awareness and shamelessly poke fun at Williamsburg hipsters. There’s a ridiculous poem that eschews the importance of thread count in the face of passionate lovemaking; there’s a guy that hand cuts chocolate bars (each bar comes with its own haiku!); and, there’s a band called Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters, which seems to be modelled, at least in namesake, after Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. Yet, for all the potential seeds of greatness in this film—like the taboo of an older woman’s infatuation for a younger man or the critique of hipness and what it means to be unique—this film fails to commit to any of this and ultimately is only fair to middling on how far it delves into exploring, really, anything of substance. Even the film’s resolution feels like an anti-resolution. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the extent to which the rest of the cast was underutilized. Perhaps the strangest of decisions is to cast the hilarious Wendi McLendon-Covey as one of the most straight-laced supporting characters in the film. For all the great work that Sally Field does, it does not make up for the fundamental flaws of this film, which is that it’s too safe, too middling and all too forgettable.

A breezy watch ideal for a mindless unwinding session on a rainy Friday afternoon.