Monday, April 04, 2016

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS: A Pleasant Surprise

(Dir. Michael Showalter, 2015)

any film fans will never forget Sally Field’s speech upon winning her second Oscar back in 1985. A giddy Field told the audience that getting the gold meant “so much more” to her than her previous win, and after thanking her family and fellow cast members from A PLACE IN THE HEART, she thanked the voters and concluded that “I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

It was a moment that was embarrassing, yet endearing at the same time. Field’s new film, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS, her first starring role in a decade, has the very same effect.

It’s the second directorial effort by Michael Showalter, who comedy fans know from such cult works as the ‘90s MTV sketch series The State and the much loved camp satire WED HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. Judging by his first film, 2005’s THE BAXTER, and his co-writing credit on David Wain’s 2014 spoof THEY CAME TOGETHER, Showalter has a thing about deconstructing rom com tropes, but here he plays it relatively straight.

Field plays the titular Doris Miller, a 60something-aged mousy, bee-hive haired, cat-eye glasses wearing accountant in a hip New York fashion company who falls for the new art director, John Fremont, portrayed by Max Greenfield, best known as Schmidt on the Fox sitcom New Girl.

Doris finds herself having Ally McBeal-ish daydreams about John, and, with the help of her best friend's (Tyne Daly) granddaughter (Isabella Acres), sets up a fake Facebook page so she can cyberstalk him.

Doris’ life is in a state of transition as her mother, who she’d had been taking care of for decades has recently passed, and her brotherTodd (Stephen Root), and his snippy wife Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey) want to her to sell the family’s cluttered Staten Island house.

With inspiration from a self help motivational guru (a great all too brief turn by Peter Gallagher), Doris starts to think she can get John’s attention. This leads to her showing up at a concert of John’s favorite band Baby Goya and Nuclear Winters (Jack Antonoff of the band Fun plays the front man), and she succeeds in making a splash in her colorful ‘80s neon attire. So much so that Antonoff wants her to pose for the cover of the band’s next album.

Doris is able to get close to John – they have a nice scene talking about past relationships at a diner - but it turns out he has an age-appropriate girlfriend (Beth Behrs of Two Broke Girls). Heartbroken over this, Doris posts a message on John’s Facebook wall that causes the young couple to break up. It’s now up to Doris to declare her love for John at his Thanksgiving party.

There are moments that made me cringe in HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS, but they were balanced with moments of pure charm and heart. Field’s Doris is adorkable for sure, but the actress fleshes out the character making her so much more than the expected caricature. In scenes with her concerned family and friends such as Daly Field is able to give Doris some dramatic heft too.

The well groomed Greenfield does a good job too with John. It’s a standard oblivious nice guy/everyman role but he nails it and makes us feel for him when he learns the truth about Doris.

Showalter, who co-wrote the film with Laura Terruso based on Terruso’s 2011 short film “Doris and the Intern,” has made his most real-feeling work here. It’s a pleasant surprise because from the outside it looks like a typical cheesy rom com, a commercially minded mix of THE INTERN and HAROLD AND MAUDE.

But step inside and you find a much, more likable production that’s not stained with cheap laughs nor cheap sentiment.

For years, I’ve misremembered Field’s Oscar quote that I mentioned above. I thought it was: “You like me, you really like me!” and I was going to say that I liked this movie, but didn’t really like it as it could’ve been a bit funnier and maybe a little less predictable. 

But despite those beefs, I'll stick with the sentiment from her original quote and say that I can’t deny the fact that I liked it, right now. I liked it.

More later...


Vimax Asli said...

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Zach Murphy said...

I enjoyed this film too. Even with the hints of cheese and cliche, it's difficult not to like.