Part hipster takedown, part soul-searching “age is but a number” sermon, Hello, My Name Is Doris is a delightful slice of humble pie from the minds of Michael Showalter and Laura Terruso. I’d been kicking myself for missing Doris at last year’s South By Southwest festival, and I’m delighted to report my FOMO (fear of missing out) was justified. Sally Field’s generation-defying performance should be something that’s talked about during the next Oscar season, as she brings a youthful exuberance to the most ballin’ eligible senior around. This is an all-smiles dissection of the crippling despair of loss, told without bias through a story about love, attraction, and never being too late to the party.
With certain realities, nonetheless.
Field stars as the titular Doris Miller, a sixty-something year old woman who’s dealing with the recent loss of her mother/roommate. Left alone in a cluttered Staten Island home, Doris ferries each morning to her monotonous data entry job, stuck in the same cycle until the arrival of a new graphic designer, John Freemont (Max Greenfield), sparks romantic interest in the over-the-hill bachelorette.
Doris doesn’t believe the two could ever share a life together, but after discovering Facebook, she begins to embrace John’s interests in an attempt to create mutual bonds. Her plan works, as the two grow closer, but is the world ready for their cradle-robbing relationship? John’s girlfriend, Brooklyn (Beth Behrs), might have something to say about that…
So, does Hello, My Name Is Doris exist in a realm of reality? Showalter’s co-writer, Laura Terruso, first conceptualized the idea as a short feature (titled Doris & The Intern), but it narrow-mindedly focuses on a frumpy cubicle hog who desperately wants to bone the hot new intern.
Showalter’s influence brings a more human element and invests into the emotional connection between Doris and John. Terruso’s short is a bit cruder, but the big-screen version of Doris grows into a full-bodied spinster with depth, dreams and a dominating presence that shows you can certainly teach an old dog new tricks. Had the film been primitively about meaningless sex, Doris’ conquest would have been forgettable, but there’s a tremendous heart beating at the core of Hello, My Name Is Doris – a necessary complement to the obscure romanticism.
Showalter’s entire film is built on our belief in Doris and John’s snowballing chemistry, which blurs 21st century companionship with stupendously vague definition. Whether it’s a steamy at-work exchange where Doris gets “inflated” by John, or an electro-rock concert in Williamsburg featuring Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters (aka Jack Antonoff), the duo’s drastic age gap continually dissipates.
Quirky silliness and ditsy energies help eliminate the inherent weirdness of a grandmother chilling with twenty-something, small-batch vanilla bottlers and progressive idealists. Greenfield presents the part of “studly young professional” with charisma to spare (a more collected Schmidt), and Field’s success comes from playing off Greenfield’s chiseled confidence.
That said, I mean, Sally Field – YASSSS QUEEN. Doris is more icon than character. She’s the type of open personality who can connect with a bevy of characters, both beautifully and expressively. Roz (Tyne Daly) tries to corral her friend’s reckless embrace of confidence (sparked by Peter Gallagher’s self-help “I’m Possible!” motto), yet Doris compares equally to Roz’s granddaughter, as they kick their legs in the air and gossip about boys.
Field is a chameleon among generations, fitting in amidst Brooklyn crowds without even trying. The real hipster OG, in a way. But Field’s investment is unequivocal, whether she’s bouncing around her bedroom while discovering Baby Goya, or chasing after John like the spry young vixen she once was. Doris may be a broken character, distracting herself from pack-rat tendencies that keep the memory of her deceased mother alive, but this blissful ignorance leads to fun-filled, infectious hilarity. A painful, healing type of anguish that leads to proper revelations.
Hello, My Name Is Doris victoriously addresses current hipster trends with the utmost sense of societal skewering, by building a strong supporting cast out of scenesters and Nonas alike. Stephen Root plays Doris’ brother, who abandoned his sister for a successful business, Kumail Nanjiani addresses the anonymous fun of Grindr, and Tyne Daly is the quasi-jealous best friend who fears for Doris’ safety. But, moreso, Showalter evokes the ironic glory that is Williamsburg, making it a character in itself.
Concert attendees brag about teaching at gay-only preschools, or their LGBT rooftop knitting clubs (because they’re totally straight, but only feel themselves in the LGBT community) – the kind of pretension and absurdity that currently thrives in Brooklyn’s fedora-infested, mustache-twirling holy land. Then again, “hipsterism” represents a harmless trend about finding happiness in personal meaning, and that’s essentially what Showalter’s film makes itself about – having one life, and living it with purpose.
Hello, My Name Is Doris will go down as one of the year’s feel-good wonders, not because of a happy, fairytale ending, or ridiculous party antics, but because of modern romanticism in a time where equality is demanded for all. Racism, sexism, ageism – every day is a constant struggle as far as outspoken PC policers are concerned, and here we have a movie that defies all those preconceptions. And while the political message may not be as prevalent as Sally Field’s jubilant, heartwarming performance, there’s most certainly a message worth taking away. A sweet, neon-laced daydream about picking yourself up, questioning norms, and saying “Why Not?” a little more that’ll make sure you leave with a cheek-to-cheek grin.
Hello, My Name Is Doris is a delightful slice of quirky romanticism, cooked up in a Williamsburg bakery that only uses locally sourced, holistically blessed ingredients.