One hundred percent of decent people with human souls agree: It’s been far too long since Sally Field, national treasure, has taken the lead role in a movie. This works to the advantage of a film like “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” which is funny and sweet, but also slight and shallow — but also, Sally Field! Front and center, playing a lovable, vulnerable, dotty spinster! The film is good, but let’s be honest, it would have delighted us even if it were mediocre.
Field plays Doris Miller, a frumpy 60-something with a nondescript office job who has had almost no romance in her life outside of the trashy novels she reads (which she does with reading glasses perched over her regular glasses). She still lives in the clutter-filled Staten Island house she grew up in, which she shared with her mother until the latter’s recent death. Doris isn’t unhappy or lonely. She has a brassy best friend (Tyne Daly) and a concerned brother (Stephen Root) and some friendly co-workers. But she isn’t exactly moving forward, either.
Her world is turned upside down, as worlds are wont to be, by the arrival of a handsome stranger. He’s John Fremont (Max Greenfield), the company’s new art director, a grinning, outgoing fellow who is half Doris’ age yet seems to be flirting with her. Doris, given to daydreams and reveries, wouldn’t think of taking it any further than that, but a motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher) inspires her to go for it. (SPEAKER: “‘Impossible’ — what a confounding word!” DORIS: “And yet I use it all the time…!”) Through the tried-and-true method of lying on Facebook, she gets to know John, pretending to like his favorite electro-pop band, with predictably amusing results. John and his Brooklyn hipster friends, with their rooftop knitting circles and fondness for retro fashion, think Doris is cool. And it seems crazy, but could John actually be into her?
The film was directed by Michael Showalter, written by him and Laura Terruso from Terruso’s short “Doris & The Intern.” Showalter is best known for surreal, parodic humor (“Wet Hot American Summer,” “They Came Together”), and “Hello, My Name Is Doris” sometimes teeters on the edge of making fun of its central character. But it eventually gives Doris some emotional backstory, which Field plays to endearing perfection, and Showalter’s attitude as a filmmaker is sunny and positive.
Pleasant as the movie is, there isn’t much to it. You can see how it worked as a short: inciting incident causes stagnant character to reevaluate life, experience growth. It’s textbook, really, not that there’s anything wrong with that. And it’s ultimately so upbeat, so hopeful, that to nitpick its story implausibilities or wish it had more weight would seem to be missing the point.
B+ (1 hr., 35 min.; )