Hello, My Name Is Doris

(USA 2015)

The title evokes in my mind the song “My Name Is Jonas,” but even Weezer is probably too hip for Doris Miller (Sally Field), a sixty-something kooky cat lady who works in the fashion industry—not as a creative but a clerk in a cube, a job she’s held for decades. She develops a crush on the office’s new art director, thirty-something John Fremont (Max Greenfield), after a crowded ride in an elevator. When a self-help speaker (Peter Gallagher) convinces her that anything is possible, Doris decides to pursue John despite their age difference. Naturally, nothing pans out as she wants or expects—mostly because Doris misinterprets things and can’t quite deal with mixed signals. Her crush gets more intense as she gets closer to John. Is this really getting somewhere?

Written by Laura Terruso and director Michael Showalter, Hello, My Name is Doris is a cute if scattered “feel good” movie that really shouldn’t work. First, the story is not believable. I don’t mean an older woman falling for a younger man—the turns that the story takes are what ring fake. The situations are so far-fetched they’re downright inane. The business with electronic music star Baby Goya (Jack Antonoff), for example, is an eyeroller. The clothes Doris wears are out there, and not in a good way. Second, the film is loaded with one cliché after another—old people having problems with technology, silly hipsters being pretentious, superficial electronic dance music gags, Staten Island lacking culture, crazy cat lady hoarding stuff. The film’s biggest sin, though, is its predictability. From the outset, you know her cringeworthy actions are going to backfire on Doris. It doesn’t take much to see where this story is headed.

Despite a weak, aimless script that gives shallow treatment to its subject and its characters, Hello, My Name Is Doris works largely due to Field, who almost single-handedly elevates it to something meaningful. She pours a lot into Doris, giving her dimension: she’s eager, excited, nervous, vulnerable, even relatable. Field accomplishes this not so much through her lines but rather through her delivery, verbal and physical. She’s great to watch here. She and Greenfield create a chemistry that succeeds. The fantasy sequences are the best parts of the film, and there’s some great physical comedy here. Tyne Daley as gruff Roz brings pizzazz to every scene she’s in.

Hello, My Name Is Doris definitely has its problems. They’re not so severe that they ruin the film, though. I enjoyed it for what it is: an offbeat sort-of romantic comedy.

(ArcLight) C+