There are countless dramedies out there, although the majority of the ones that include romance tell essentially the same story from an identical perspective. Most of them follow young women who are simply looking for love, and ultimately get more than they bargained for. Writer/director Michael Showalter and co-writer Laura Terruso tell a story that may not revolutionize the genre mash-up, although it's from a point-of-view that is rarely explored. Hello, My Name Is Doris deserves to be celebrated - and it certainly was at its SXSW World Premiere - for its guts to tell a story that would have never gotten told if it was funded by a major Hollywood studio. However, it's not just what the story is, but how well it is told, and this one is done properly.
Soon after her mother passes away, Doris (Sally Field) finds herself alone in the house in which she has taken care of her mother for several years. Having worked in the same office for so long, life has become a dull routine. After attending a self-help seminar, the sixty-something woman decides to romantically pursue her younger co-worker, John (Max Greenfield).
A harmless office crush soon turns into an unhealthy obsession, as Doris creates a fake Facebook profile in order to stalk him online. She begins taking notes of his hobbies, likes, and dislikes in order to impress him further at work. It doesn't take long for Doris' fantasies to appear right in front of her eyes, as she continues to fall into daydreams of a life that she wants to have with her young co-worker. The screenplay introduces a genuinely hilarious sense of humor. After hearing the term "impossible" being turned into "I am possible," she fuels herself in her attempts to make John notice her. In fact, she goes as far as attending an electronic concert wearing vibrant neon rave colors in order to impress him. Whether the jokes are expressed through dialogue or the visual design, Hello, My Name Is Doris remains to have comedy that is both effective and extraordinarily well-placed. It has been quite some time since I have seen a good comedy, and this one had me laughing consistently.
While the majority of the film is humorous, Showalter and Terruso include hints of drama throughout the picture. Doris lost many years of her life taking care of her mother, which never allowed her the opportunity to make a life for herself. Deep down, she resents her brother (Stephen Root) for abandoning her with their mother, since he made a life for himself. He pressures Doris to throw out or donate many of the seemingly useless items that fill her house. It isn't until she experiences a nervous breakdown that she finally comes to terms with many of the serious problems that have remained hidden underneath the surface for so many years. This is an incredibly dramatic sequence within a film that primarily contains comedy, although it remains to feel incredibly organic to the story. The transitions could be smoother, but it proves to still be an engaging and impactful film.
Perhaps one of the film's most critical pieces of symbolism is that of a pencil that Doris secretly stole from John in a cramped elevator. This item has bite marks at the top, which proves to be a motif that Doris collects and considers to have a great amount of sentimental value. This pencil greatly represents Doris' state of mind. It may appear to be in good shape from afar, but up-close, it's scarred. Just when she believes that all hope is lost with John, she breaks the pencil in half, only to tape it back together. She consistently proves that the only thing holding her together is that strip of tape. This is a smart piece of symbolism that Showalter and Terruso have included. As far as Doris' goal is concerned, it isn't very difficult for the audience to figure out how it's going to end. However, the film successfully keeps us on the edge, as John continues to express mixed signals regarding his feelings towards Doris. Nevertheless, Hello, My Name Is Doris is about the journey. It isn't about twists and turns that will keep us guessing, and the feature ultimately succeeds in telling this story.
The central driving force to the film is Sally Field in the role of Doris. This is an exceptional performance that captures both the comedic and dramatic elements of the feature. To put it simply, Field is absolutely superb. She creates an abundance of great laughs, but her skill level truly comes out in the more dramatic sequences. Field is emotionally genuine, as she breaks down about the life that she missed out on. When the audience gets the opportunity to hear about Doris' past, Field offers a tremendous amount of emotion from her eyes. This is truly a brilliant performance that never feels over-the-top. Max Greenfield is incredibly fitting as John. He's attractive, but it's his undeniable charm that makes him so convincing as John. When he shares the screen with Field, the film displays an astounding level of charisma. There isn't a single poor performance to speak of.
Hello, My Name Is Doris proves that age has nothing to do with coming into one's own person. This is a story about a woman finding herself, and learning to accept where she is in life. Writer/director Michael Showalter and co-writer Laura Terruso have crafted something special. It's filled with well-placed laughs and lightly sprinkled with a fine sense of drama. Some of the transitions are bumpy, but the story is just so effective. Sally Field delivers an exceptional performance, where she serves as the film's core. Hello, My Name Is Doris is a hysterically sweet triumph. Highly recommended!
Hello, My Name Is Doris will play at SXSW Film Festival 2015 on March 14th and March 17th.