Cinematic Releases: Hello, My Name is Doris

sally field
Sally Field turns in another great performance in Hello, My Name is Doris. 

sally field
Just try not to like me! I dare you!
There’s something infinitely refreshing about seeing a Hollywood heavyweight and veritable queen of the screen like Sally Field take on a romantic comedy in the awkwardness-driven post-Apatow world of indie comedies.  Even if her performance wasn’t staggeringly good, the novelty is certainly there – seeing the 69-year-old Field rub elbows with fresh comedic faces in a role like that of the title character in Hello, My Name is Doris is premise enough to warrant a viewing.  The truth is, however, that Field puts those fresh faces to shame with a wonderfully funny, sweet, and endearing portrayal of an aging woman struggling with the very human desire to be wanted.

Despite directing and co-writing the screenplay, Hello, My Name is Doris lacks the surreal absurdity and overwhelming awkwardness one might expect from a romantic comedy from Michael Showalter.  Doris is a universally likeable, digestible comedy with some extremely funny moments and a few heart-wrenching ones, unquestionably made possible by the undeniable acting chops of Sally Field.  Perhaps most surprising about her performance was her seriously convincing moments of physical comedy – a few goofy moments of facial and body contortion really sold the character.  Rising to the occasion opposite Field is the endlessly charming Max Greenfield.  Greenfield is no slouch in Doris either, deftly walking the razor’s edge between the consummate “nice guy” and insufferable wiener.  He makes for a believable love interest that sparks Doris’ entire journey, a bit of “plot glue” that the absence of could have definitely undermined the whole experience.

The soundtrack worked but wasn’t overwhelmingly present to this viewer.  Director Showalter does manage to squeeze in a few visually interesting moments, despite the somewhat cluttered general feel of the film.  Thematically, Doris does an excellent job holding the proverbial mirror to the banality of modern “hipster” culture.  Hipsters aren’t the butt of the joke in Doris, but it pokes them in the ribs more than once.  Perhaps in open defiance of its indie movie feel, the film also manages to strike a chord of believability that makes it a much more enjoyable journey.  Doris doesn’t break any new ground in its overall arc, however – the story is a bit shallow and predictable – but when it’s driven by such an endearing and likeable character, who cares?  

Sally Field is a delight and sometimes that’s all you need.

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-Patrick B. McDonald