On the surface, it might be easy to assume that Hello, My Name is Doris is making a play for some cracks at hipsters, since Sally Field’s Doris dresses and is into things that feel appropriate for hipsters. Thankfully, writer/director Michael Showalter only hints at that sort of story, instead shaping Doris as a solid feature about an older woman finally discovering what she wants in life.
Doris Miller is in her sixties, and saying her life is in a rut is being generous. The mother she supported for most of her adult life recently died, leaving her on Staten Island with little to occupy her time aside from her friend Roz (Tyne Daly) and a job in data entry. After Roz takes Doris with her to lecture with Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher), a self-help guru, Doris decides to pursue a relationship with her new office crush: recent L.A. transplant John Fremont (Max Greenfield).
At first she gets some help from Roz’s granddaughter in catfishing John on Facebook. Eventually, she finds out his favorite band, and begins listening to their music. She eventually arranges to bump into him at one of the group’s concerts, but when she gets there, her neon clothes catch the eye of many of the (much younger) audience members, as well as the singer, who asks her to pose for their next album cover. And with that, Doris begins spending a lot more time with both John and hipsters around New York.
While she’s surrounded by a strong cast, Doris is undoubtedly Field’s film. She plays well with the comedic tone of the film, and when the film hits a dramatic scene, she’s (unsurprisingly) able to deliver there too. Her crush on John is believable, in part because she and Greenfield have a surprisingly electric chemistry that makes her desires not seem like a joke or implausible.
The film’s sense of comedy is fine, though lacking a little bit of an edge that is only alluded to at times. When it hits the dramatic material, though, it hits surprisingly hard. As Doris slowly reveals her backstory, it’s heartbreaking to see how she spent her life ignoring her wishes for the needs of another. And the film’s ending thankfully refuses to tie a bow on the story.
Hello, My Name is Doris is a largely light story with some decent laughs. It’s worth watching, though, for its performances – namely Field, who shows she can still deliver a commanding lead performance when given the chance with a meaty role. Those performances make the film one worth seeing for fans of supporting work that casts older leading ladies in leading roles.