Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Michael Showalter & Laura Terruso
Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Wendy McLendon-Covey, Elizabeth Reaser, Tyne Daly, Peter Gallagher, Natasha Lyonne, Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Mooney, Jack Antonoff, Stephen Root.
Do yourself a huge favor and watch Hello, My Name Is Doris! It is truly worth it. I sincerely doubt you’ll find a quirky comedy that will tickle your funny bones as much as this one will that has come out so far this year. Seriously, I laughed out loud, uncontrollably, every few minutes, for well over an hour of this tightly-paced, perfectly executed little indie that could. I’m not sure if Michael Showalter (The Baxter) is becoming a stronger director or if it’s just brilliant casting, but the film is a resounding success and deserves so much more attention than it has received.
Last year, Amy Schumer’s sketch Last Fuckable Day featured a joke that Sally Field one day was Tom Hanks’ love interest in Punchline and the next was playing his mother in Forrest Gump. While the movies are actually eight years apart and Field is actually a decade older than Hanks, this fact is still noteworthy. Especially because Gump officially cemented the mommy-fication of Field’s career. She had been playing the mom roles since 1989’s Steel Magnolias, but after Mrs. Doubtfire Field struggled to do anything but, and forget starring roles. In fact, between 1991 and 2012 Field didn’t receive a single movie role that amounted to much more than a walk-on cameo or deeply supporting role. And she’s a freaking two time Oscar winner! TV was no kinder to Field. Aside from her recurring stint as a bipolar mom on ER (which was nothing more than a caricature of her star making turn in the TV movie Sybil), she was casted as the matriarch (surprise surprise, another mom) in the crappy series Brothers & Sisters. She did get another Oscar nomination a few years ago playing Mary Todd in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (which, full disclosure, I have not seen), but it was another supporting role and didn’t seem to affect her career that much.
All this to say that Sally Field has somewhat fallen off the radar. Even in the recent trend that seems to actually appreciate the talents of older actresses, Field was missing in action. What was Hollywood to do with an actress that for the better part of thirty years has embodied the mom role so completely? Well, the answer is now clear: put her in comedies!!! Field hasn’t always been great in comedic roles, which is why she usually played the straight man character, grounding over the top performances by the likes of Robin Williams or Tom Hanks. The one time, that I can think of, which saw her attempt a comedic performance was 1991’s Soapdish, which fell quite flat. So imagine my surprise when Field turns out to not just be funny as Doris, but is the funniest thing about the movie, with perfect comedic timing, hilariously unabashed, Field goes for the joke and lands it every time. She is a true revelation! I cannot sing her praises enough!
Doris ran the risk of being a one-note horrible character so easily: she is the last reminder of a bygone era in a company that has modernized and rebranded itself and is populated solely by odious hipster-y millennials, she lives in Staten Island in the house she grew up in and inhabited with her recently deceased mother her whole life, she is a hoarder (a malady stemming from her father walking out on the family and augmented by her mother’s mental illness), she is kooky and kitschy and dresses like the 50s never ended, she is shy and meek, she fantasizes scenarios. In the hands of a less talented actress Doris would have been a train wreck. And yet Field fills her with so much love, tenderness, humanity, that Doris is believable, and we root for her every second of the movie, even when she goes after a co-worker so much younger than herself (New Girl‘s Max Greenfield).
In a world populated by Williamsburg-dwelling hipsters, Doris turns out to be the OG. She knits, she dresses vintage, she wears thick glasses (sometimes two pairs), she has a house full of mason jars, she wears poodle skirts and afghans, she likes cats: in a world of pretense, her disingenuous and unabashed realness turn her into the model the newer generation is trying to achieve, but because it’s an act, never can nor will. Aside from the charming Greenfield who is able to be more charismatic than his usual smarmy schtick, the rest of the talented cast goes more underused. Tyne Daly appears as Doris’ best friend. Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black) plays a coworker. Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight) is Doris’ therapist. But none of them really make any kind of impression. It’s a bit of a shame, but in the end this is Doris’ show, and therefore Sally Field’s, and oh, what a show it is! Seriously, what are you still doing reading this review? Go watch this great film. Do it, I promise that you won’t regret it!