a theatre, film & pop culture review
Who:Laura Terruso, co-screenwriter; Sally Field, star
Where: In theatres
When: Released March 11
Why Watch: This is screenwriter/director/producer Laura Terruso’s first full-length writing credit (shared with director Michael Showalter) and a notably interesting showcase for two-time Oscar winner Sally Field who plays an older women in love with a much younger man.
Doris (Sally Field), clad in cat-eye glasses and gaudy layers, and deeply grieving her recently passed mother, is more than a collector of nostalgia – her home could be showcased on A & E’s Hoarders. In other words, it’s clinical, and at her brother’s (Stephen Root) behest, Doris reluctantly sees a therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) to try to work through her grief – and her insatiable urge to save that single ski and grab that retro ’70s lamp from her Staten Island neighbor’s trash. So when she meets John Fremont (Max Greenfield), her company’s hot, young new art director, it’s not just her work productivity that gets a boost – her social life gets one as well. Smitten by his warm reception of her, Doris enlists the precocious granddaughter of her best friend (the always great Tyne Daly) to do some Facebook recon and concoct a “meet-cute” that involves Doris endearingly donning ridiculous rainbow-colored gear and awkwardly bopping along to electronic music.
Therein lies the dichotomy of Hello, My Name is Doris. Writers Terruso and Showalter choose to showcase an older, single, dowdy woman (who, rather sadly, works in a cubicle) at the center of their story – which is almost an act of heroism by Hollywood standards – but they then place her in situations that, rather cruelly, ask us to laugh at her. Or do they? As director, Showalter doesn’t seem quite so sure of the tone himself, alternating jarringly from drama to slapstick at a moment’s notice in weird fantasy sequences that leave us wondering if Doris is an object of derision or sympathy.
If Sally Field has anything to say about it, it’s the latter. She balances the film’s uneven tone (and terrible costuming – does she really need to wear that hair piece? We get it: she’s a bit of a weirdo) with a movingly authentic portrayal of social isolation, grief, and a sincere longing for love. It’s not hard to understand how, in her sheltered reality, she falls for the open, unpretentious John (Greenfield is effortlessly appealing). What’s less clear under Showalter’s direction is John’s real, uncensored feelings for her. Regardless, Field’s restraint of Doris’s “kooky” characteristics and her delicate handling of the older woman’s vulnerability prevents the film from teetering into sentimental schlock. Together, Fields and Greenfield are so warm and delightful, it’s easy to give the film’s flaws a gentle pass.
Bechdel Test: PASS
Racial Bechdel Test: PASS