‘Hello, My Name is Doris’ doesn’t come close to its potential

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

What is one to make of the movie, “Hello, My Name is Doris”?

Make tracks in the opposite direction is the short answer.

There’s something badly off-kilter when a two-time Oscar winner turns up in a film so confused and worse, so condescending – not only to Sally Field but to all women in her age range – that you can’t quite figure out how it got made, let alone why.

Hello, My Name is Doris

The portrayal of the relation between characters played by Sally Field and Max Greenfield is nothing short of condescending. Credit: flavorwire.com

Okay, perhaps “why” is easier. Because, I suppose, Sally Field loves to work. Along with those Oscars, she’s got a couple of Emmys for her extensive TV work, a lengthy filmography and a slew of nominations for everything from the Golden Globes to the BAFTAS (the Brit equivalent of the Oscars).

Plus, despite the lip service now being paid, there just aren’t many roles for women over 50.  Unless – all together now – you’re Meryl Streep (or Helen Mirren).

That’s one reason Field ended up playing Tom Hanks’ mom in “Forrest Gump,” even though she’s all of ten years older than him.

Yes, Field likes to work.

And she’s much too good for this addled and insulting comedy… something (??) about a sheltered woman who picks an inappropriate love object. No, not a blow-up doll (those jokes are for men only), but just about as much of a fantasy figure.

A younger man. A much younger man.

When the movie begins, Doris has just lost her true life’s work – not her job at some generic beehive of cubicles in Manhattan, but taking care of her elderly mother. Her brother would like her to move on (read, sell the house on Staten Island, so they can get a few bucks out of the place before it falls apart). Doris isn’t so sure. After all, what’s she to do with that single ski she’s saved over the years or all those tiny bottles of shampoo?

Hello, My Name is Doris, sally field

Sally Field’s character is costumed as part Minnie Pearl, part Delta Dawn. Credit: commercialappeal.com

Change – or the apparition of it – enters her life in the form of John (Max Greenfield), her new co-worker. He’s nice to her in that off-handed way lots of guys are nice to people. He has no idea of her feelings – or her lovelorn fantasies, which the movie likes to, um, share with us.

John is so clueless that, after running into Doris at a concert (in true stalker style, she’s Facebook’d his favorite band and where they’re appearing), he invites her to hang out with him and his friends.  But what they see as an “adorable dotty old lady,” she perceives as her new chance at life. More specifically, a life with John.

“Doris” might’ve been a courageous comment on aging and loneliness. It could’ve even kept in some of the funny bits. Like when her best friend (Tyne Daly) notes that Doris has packets of Chinese take-out duck sauce older than John.

Unfortunately, filmmaker Michael Showalter is as clueless about tone and nuance as John is about Doris. While the plot and characters hint at something poignant, even something disturbingly painful about growing old alone, the movie itself is played almost as farce.

Field is decked out like a lunatic – part Minnie Pearl, part Delta Dawn, and altogether pitiful. Yet her loneliness, her despair and her disconnection are played for real. And because Field is as good as she is, we feel every bit of it.

If this and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” are Hollywood’s idea of what women want, I’d just as soon they forget about us.  As they mostly have anyway.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

1 reply
  1. Rosie says:

    What I’m interested in, is what you think the film should have been about or the tone you feel it should have taken? Your review suggests you feel this topic should have been portrayed more seriously.

    I personally feel humor can be an effective way to get across very serious messages, such as loneliness, aging and the like and this is from someone who dealt first hand with these issues, with an elderly, hoarder of a father who eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

    People don’t always want gritty.

    I also felt this movie was empowering for women. How many times do we see older women pursuing younger guys?It’s commonplace for actors aged 50+ to be placed with women in their 20’s, I agree the movie industry dumbs down movies for women. But, I didn’t feel this movie did this. Yes, her character wasn’ t typically strong or inspiring (nor are we as human beings) , but It takes intelligence to recognize nuance does it not? I also didn’t feel this was a solely aimed at women.But, maybe this was me just being naive.Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?