Sally Field is excellent in Hello, My Name Is Doris, which does a pretty fine job of telling a story about love, mental health, grief, and never giving up on trying something new.
Hello, My Name Is Doris opens at a funeral, the funeral of Doris’ mother to be exact, and we quickly learn that Doris had thrown away her life to appease and take care of her mother. Now what to do? Doris’ brother is quick to pressure her into selling their Mother’s house, but Doris’ is too connected to it and the stuff (junk?) in it. Doris’ incoming downward spiral is diverted when she meets the new art director at her company and a crush quickly borders on obsession.
The film is first and foremost a comedy. Written (with Laura Terruso) and directed by Michael Showalter, there is clearly some comedic chops behind this film and Sally Field is ready to have fun. Showalter is known for his sillier side, and Field gets plenty of silly bits to play, but there is a serious side layered through all of this. Showalter never lets the film take itself too seriously, but there are a couple of scenes that aren’t afraid to show the more unstable side of Doris and what she is dealing with. If Field wasn’t so damn good these scenes might have felt wildly out of place in this film, but she sells the couple of big dramatic moments in the film with ease. Showalter also deserves some credit as well for always finding just the right way to show us Doris, as you could have very easily played this film as a creepy stalker thriller. Showalter never falters with his control of the tone, though, and he makes some of Doris’ weirder behaviors come off as endearing while never letting it feel like we are laughing at Doris’ at her expense.
There is a lot to praise here, but I think the film just barely gets away with a couple of things as well. Doris’ moment of enlightenment doesn’t really feel entirely earned, but I get that Showalter might not have wanted to take the film to some of the darker places he is sitting on the precipice of. Though, I can’t help but wonder if the film might have been a bit better if they looked into some of this stuff a bit more. Showalter is doing such a great job of balancing tone, he might have been able to pull it all off. The film also rushes to its conclusion and I don’t think it quite earned that final bit. Still, Field and the film are enjoyable from start to finish, I just feel like a couple tweaks here and there might have made the film something really special.
I mentioned how great Field is, but it can’t be overstated. She is fantastic. She walks such a delicate line the whole film that could have led to the part being way too over the top one way or the other, but she never wavers. She is adorable and so damn funny, one wishes she got to show off these chops more often. The rest of the cast is fine around here, with Max Greenfield getting his biggest role in a film yet. Greenfield successfully sheds his Schmidt persona from New Girl, but I just can’t buy him in the more dramatic moments. I just can’t make the lead with him when he isn’t going for comedy. Beth Behrs is great when she pops in for a couple scenes, but the film really forgets about her so it can try to move towards a happier ending. The fact that they just ignore what happens surrounding Behrs is probably the film’s biggest misstep. But it is Isabella Acres who is the stand out of the supporting cast, she plays Doris’ friends’ niece who helps Doris out with her man chasing and I just kept wishing we go more of her.
Hello, My Name Is Doris is a delightful comedy almost every step of the way. The film might cut a couple of corners here and there, but none of these shortcomings ultimately hurt the film all that much. Sally Field is worth the price of admission, as she hasn’t been this great in ages, it’s a wonderful performance. Spending time with Doris is a joy, and you shouldn’t hesitate to seek this one out at the theater.