Oh, how far we’ve come since the days of the Flying Nun.
With the recent passing of her mother, Doris (Sally Field) is left to, basically, fend for herself. No worries, as it’s something that she’s been doing for quite some time, but now that she’s nearly 70, the time has come and gone for hoarding, taking the ferry to-and-from work, and not having any particular motivation in life. Though, after a attending a seminar by a motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher), Doris realizes that she has plenty of life to live and it’s her opportunity to grab it while she still can – even if that means, well, pining after her much younger co-worker John (Max Greenfield). And because Doris is so infatuated with John, she can’t keep herself away from stalking him on Facebook, at the office, or trying her hardest to hang out with him, every opportunity she gets. Eventually, she starts to win over John and believes that her dream may just come true. However, it’s also at the expense of her best friends, as well as her own mental-health.
It’s great to see such a seasoned vet of the silver screen like Sally Field get roles like Doris. While it’s nowhere near the kind of role that would make us think, “Oh, well they could have given it to anyone,” it’s still also the kind of role that reminds us why she’s just so lovable and cute in the first place. Even at nearly 70, Sally Field can still make wonders with what she can do with a character.
Even in something as fine and okay as Hello, My Name is Doris.
And the only reason why I say that the movie is “fine and okay”, is solely due to the fact that it deals with two different tones and ideas, yet, doesn’t always have the right idea of how to balance them. For one, it’s a movie about an elderly lady getting with the times and finding her new spirit with the younger, much hipper generation, but on the other hand, it’s a movie an elderly lady who is slowly, but surely, coming to terms with her mortality and how, in some ways, she’s only got a few good years left and she might as well make the best of them, even if that does mean putting herself in a very troubling situation. Because of these two different movies colliding, Hello, My Name is Doris doesn’t always feel like the tragic-comedy it wants to clearly be, but co-writer/director Michael Showalter clearly treads the fine line between both.
In ways, too, the movie is very funny, as well as very sad, with one clear attention to the former, and not so less on the later. What’s perhaps actually hilarious about the movie is that there’s a lot of jokes made at the expense of this hipster culture, their weird, electronic music they listen, the odd, seemingly old-timey hobbies they take up (like knitting), and how their lives seem to be so run with technology, that it’s almost too difficult for them to embrace the real world around them. While the movie never tries to make this its prerogative, there’s still plenty of moments where you get the idea that someone like Doris, an older, but seemingly fun and vibrant lady, could actually throw herself into this world and into this life, and nobody would really push back.
The movie could have easily been about how out-of-place and fish-out-of-water Doris is in this younger, much faster world, but really, the movie doesn’t make itself about that. If anything, a lot of the characters want to hang out with Doris more than she actually knows and they treat her just like they would any co-worker; they may not be the best of friends, but their still easygoing enough that they don’t seem like snobs. This extra attention to detail makes the movie feel like so much more than just your average comedy, and make it seem more sweet.
Then again, there is that tragedy-aspect of the movie that comes in, but doesn’t always work.
That Doris has some sort of a mental illness (what with all the hoarding and all), makes it seem like the movie will make some sort of point about it, or better yet, try to have us understand it better. But it sort of doesn’t. This is a problem because the movie does show many of scenes where Doris is clearly having some sort of mental breakdown and doesn’t always understand what’s going on around her, but then not know what to do with them. It’s as if Showlater wants to develop this idea more, but doesn’t want to get too down in the dumps and take us away from the more charming, funny bits that the movie has to offer.
At the same time though, this is why Sally Field is such an important factor to a movie like this, where she’s able to blend both sadness and happiness, without ever making too clear of a distinction of what she’s exactly feeling. Because Doris is such a cutesy, lovely little old lady, she can sometimes be seen as the comedic-relief among those around her, but as the movie goes on and on, we see certain shades to her that, yes, may be darker, but may also give us a great understanding of who this woman was and why she is, the way she is now. We never get a clear answer, but because Field is so great at making us think more and more, it doesn’t matter – she’s great as is, creating a funny character, who also has a heart and soul, and isn’t just made to be a joke.
The same can’t really be said for the other characters, however, Showlater still gives them enough to work with.
Though Max Greenfield’s John may be a bit bland, there’s still some sort of idea of him that may actually fall for a woman like Doris. Whether it’s because he has mommy issues, girlfriend issues, or is just lonely and in need of a hug, we don’t know. What we do know is that he and Field have a solid chemistry that transcends being just an infatuated possibility, and more of a nice and tender friendship, where both people give a little something more than the other.
Consensus: Hello, My Name is Doris may have issues with its tone, it still features a solid performance from the always great Sally Field, while also offering a sweet, sometimes, very funny story about aging and embracing the reality that life may have passed you by, but it hasn’t gone away just yet.
7 / 10