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Hello, My Name Is Doris (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Hello, My Name Is Doris


Starring Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Tyne Daly, Beth Behrs, Isabella Acres, Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Elizabeth Reaser, Natasha Lyonne, Caroline Aaron, Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Mooney, Rebecca Wisocky, Amy Okuda, Don Stark, Nnamdi Asomugha and Peter Gallagher.

Screenplay by Laura Terruso & Michael Showalter.

Directed by Michael Showalter.

Distributed by Roadside Attractions.  95 minutes.  Rated R.

It ain’t easy to be a woman of a certain age in Hollywood.

Take Sally Field, for example.  Not that insanely long ago, she was one of the most reliable actresses in the business.  She played the lead in a series of acclaimed films and regularly received Oscar Nominations – even winning two.  (Come on, we have all seen the “You like me!” acceptance speech for her 1983 win for Places From the Heart, if not necessarily when it happened, then on decades of Oscar clip shows ever since.) 

However, forty turned to fifty and fifty turned to sixty and the roles consistently got smaller.  She’d still be in Oscar-nominated films (for example Forrest Gump or Lincoln), or the occasional blockbuster (like The Amazing Spider-Man or Mrs. Doubtfire) but suddenly she was playing supporting roles.

On the rare occasions she got a lead, it was normally in a smaller independent films, and she was mostly playing older or even dying women.  Her last lead performance was in Two Weeks in 2006 as a woman dying of cancer – a brilliant performance but a tragic one, in a movie that was barely seen.  Her most widely seen role in the last two decades was as the matriarch in the long-running series Brothers & Sisters, and even that was just one of several characters in an ensemble piece.

Therefore, it is really nice to see Field, at 69, finally getting a juicy lead role again.  Hello, My Name Is Doris is a surprisingly funny and heartfelt comedy.  (It’s nice seeing Field going back to comedy, too.  Now she mostly does drama, but we first met her in the 1960s as Gidget and The Flying Nun and films like Smokey & the Bandit in the 70s.)

In Hello, My Name Is Doris, she plays Doris (obviously…), an aging spinster who gave up her one opportunity for true love 40 years earlier to care for her eccentric invalid mother.  Her mother has finally died, leaving Doris without the purpose of caring for someone.

She still lives in the Staten Island home she has been in her entire life, a home so full of junk that there is barely an open surface.  She’s not exactly a cat lady (she only has one cat), but she may as well be.  Her brother (Stephen Root) and his loud wife (Wendi McClendon-Covey) wants her to see a shrink (Elizabeth Reaser) and sell the house.  She is abnormally shy.  She has a job she hates at a hip Brooklyn office – they kept her on when the company bought out the old business where she used to work.  Her best (and pretty much only) friend (Tyne Daly) tries to get her out of her rut by taking her to self-help seminars, mostly for the cheese trays.

Doris is totally lost in her life when a new guy named John (Max Greenfield of New Girl) joins her company.  She is hit with romantic feelings she hasn’t had in decades.  But John is over 30 years younger than her, there is no way that could work, could it?  Doris starts to put herself out there, going to concerts, joining Facebook, going to parties and finally coming to some terms with her life.

It is a fine spotlight role, surprisingly funny and also very dramatically intense.  In fairness, Field does play some of the early scenes of Doris – while she is still at peak neurotic eccentricity – rather broadly.  Nonetheless, overall it is a glorious performance in a surprisingly lovable film.

Watching Hello, My Name Is Doris, it is hard to not think about what a crime it is that a talented actress like Field has not been given a role this juicy in a decade.  Welcome back, Sally.  We still like you.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: March 19, 2016.

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