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HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS - The Review - We Are Movie Geeks

Review

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS – The Review

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Sally Field plays Doris Miller, a 60-something accountant with a Walter Mitty-like imagination who becomes fixated on a younger new co-worker John Fremont (Max Greenfield), in HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS. The comedy from director/co-writer Michael Showalter (“The Baxter”) has plenty of indie film quirkiness but what makes the film work is Field’s performance as Doris, a character who in lesser hands could have gone so very wrong.

Doris is a data entry worker in accounting working at a hipster fashion magazine who is suddenly smitten when she meets a handsome young new co-worker named John Fremont, a nice Midwestern who is new to the city. But Doris is no sexy cougar; she is an oddball character that would have been out of his league even if she were 20 years younger.

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS reverses the gender of the standard movie male fantasy of an older man pining for a younger woman but Doris is also the male version of the nerdy, shy guy. dresses in a sort of coordinated but mismatched style that suggests both the ’80s and the ’50s, wears wigs, headscarves, and cats’ eye glasses, and has a hoarder’s penchant for picking up discarded items from trash bins she passes on the street. At work, her younger co-workers look right through her. After years of caring for her mother in the Staten Island home where she grew up, Doris is now a bit adrift after her mother’s recent death. Her insensitive brother Todd (Stephen Root) and his selfish wife Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey) urge her to sell the house, eager to get their share of the money and oblivious to her bereavement and sacrifice caring for their mother.

The character is really a bundle of quirks and even stereotypes, the kind that shows up as a secondary character in comedies, but Field breathes unexpected life and humanity into Doris. Doris’ Walter Mitty tendency to get lost in her fantasies is pared with a kind of cluelessness that makes her both dim and smart, yet Field shows us a human complexity beneath her loud clothes and strangeness.

Director/co-writer Showalter had to make a choice in this comedy, whether Doris will be an object of ridicule or sympathy. He opts for a mix of both, where she is sometimes the hero and other times to butt of jokes. There are little hints of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp and pathos in that choice, but social commentary is hardly the point in this uneven film.

That unevenness adds to the film’s already considerable indie film quirkiness but it also sometimes strays into a kind of scary/creepiness, with stalker behavior. Only Field’s fine, nuanced performance saves the film from its worst side.

Along with her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly),  who specializes in finding events with free food, Doris attends a lecture by slick motivational speaker Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher), who urges his audience to “take risks” – a message Doris takes to heart and applies to her romantic obsession. With guidance from Roz’s teen-aged granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres), who helps Doris create a Facebook page and persona, where she can secretly stalk John online, and embarks on a plan to win her heart’s desire.

Her co-worker John is new to New York and knows no one. Being Midwestern nice, he innocently takes Doris’ overtures as simple friendliness. What he sees as a budding friendship, she sees as something else.

At times, Doris’ immersion in John’s much younger world allows director Showalter to poke fun at millennial quirks and pretensions. There is a very funny scene where John’s new girlfriend Brooklyn (could there be a more perfect name?) takes Doris along to a gay quilting circle, with Brooklyn has bonded although she is not gay. In another scene, Doris becomes a social media hit at a concert, where the band and their fans take her bizarre clothes and murky pronouncements as hipster cool.

Late in the film, Field reveals a different, more complicated Doris, the one that could have been before a lifetime of deferred dreams, in a brilliant, striking scene that is the film’s most riveting moment.

Despite the film’s unevenness and its impractical ending, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS is worth seeing, primarily for Field’s terrific performance, a demonstration of how a skillful actor can transform lesser material.

OVERALL RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS opens in St. Louis March 18th, 2016.

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