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Review: Hello, My Name is Doris 

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

In a perfect world we would always have room for our Best Actresses as they age but in the world we actually live in only British Dames and Meryl Streep are allowed to do that. And Tilda Swinton but she lives inside her own space and time continuum. The expiration date on female movie stars — their “last f***able day” (thank you Amy Schumer) — before they disappear into thankless supporting roles used to be 40 and now it’s thankfully extended until about 50. But at some point in most star careers the lead roles all too abruptly stop.

That’s why it was a joy last summer to see Lily Tomlin ace a rare film-carrying job in Grandma and why it’s nice to have a spiritual sequel just months later in Hello My Name is Doris. The two films are nothing alike but for their creative foundation

They’re both star vehicles for a senior citizen legend carefully crafted entirely around her specific gifts. Which is to say that with Grandma we got an acerbic feminist politically savvy LGBT comedy and with Hello My Name is Doris we get a cutesy boy-crazy romantic dramedy because Lily Tomlin and Sally Field are very different performers. [more...]

The new movie, cowritten and directed by Michael Showalter (best known as “Coop” from Wet Hot American Summer) spins around a lonely accountant named Doris whose mother has just died leaving her emotionally vulnerable. She has a best friend named Roz (Tyne Daly, stealing all her scenes) but otherwise she’s quite lonely. Her life is dull, spreadsheet drudgery and long commutes to her hoarder’s existence in Staten Island in the house her fed-up brother and sister-in-law (), want her to sell. During all this emotional upheaval Doris develops an instant crush on John (Max Greenfield) a handsome friendly new manager at work and becomes impossibly convinced that they could have a future together.

Yes, that’s a lot of situation for a comedy but with its tight focus on Doris’s inner life, the movie somewhat nimbly gets its many sitcom plot threads to dovetail with her journey. 

People who should avoid Hello My Name is Doris:  Anyone who breaks out in hives at the adjective “quirky” and especially anyone who has ever said that any woman should “act her age.” To the film’s great credit it’s not ageist at all but instead reflects the major, medium, and minor hurts that spring from ageist culture, whether that’s straight up disdain or being ignored, or the benevolent but reductive “old people are cute!” tokenism which settles around Doris in her office and in social events when John takes a liking to her, surprising himself and their coworkers… 

She’s weird. But a good weird.

In a series of totally implausible incidents which still play out with uncomfortably plausible emotions, John and Doris become closer and hurt feelings and confusion mount to a breaking point. If you’ve ever seen Steel Magnolias (Ha — as if you haven’t!) you’ll  know how much gold Sally Field can mine from psychotic break size shifts between comedy and drama in the same scene and this unique ability comes in handy again. On the surface this is very much a broad unrequited-romantic comedy in which some of the jokes, particularly the sexual ones, don’t land. But it manages to be both funny and endearing because Field knows to play both the external comedy and the internal drama. In the best scenes she wears both as visibly as the two pairs of glasses she’s often clumsily sporting.  

Tyne & Sally make a memorable pair of best friends 

Hello My Name is Doris  never punishes Doris for the baggage that comes with age or painful personal failings or even for her often ridiculous fashion sense, but respects that this is just who this weird lady is. In one of the strongest scenes Roz and Doris have a rare fight that’s ostensibly about dinner plans but really about their mutual inability to let stuff go. Doris lashes out at Roz for being too obsessed with her dead husband “He died 15 years ago!”  Roz lashes back at Doris’s hoarding. “Says the woman who has packets of duck sauce from the 1970s.” Doris’s angry funny retort.  


People who should see Hello My Name is Doris: anyone who understands that the human desire for friendship and romance and a little adventurous break from daily monotony has no expiration date. And, above all else people who’d like to see Sally Field in great form again. She keeps.

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Reader Comments (17)

I want to remove the bow from her hair, but other than that impulse, I'm intrigued.
Seeing Tyne Daly is as much of a draw as Sally Field, let's hope this finds an audience, it sounds promising.

March 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Really looking forward to this performance. Thank you for singling out her work in "Steel Magnolias." Her best work, me thinks. Too bad everyone was too busy drooling over Roberts that year.

March 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Great review as always. Hopefully this gets a release date in Portugal soon. But Nat you forgot to mention just how big is Kumail Nanjiani 's role in this motion picture. I need to know this. The thought of Kumail and Max G. on a big scream smiling at me, makes me verry happy. PS: SM features three of my favourite actresses Sally, Olympia amd Shirley. All of them are marvelous in it, and that cemetery scene is a hoot.

March 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

Milton -- Nanjiani is Sally & Max's gay coworker. He's in a few scenes.

March 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

She was so great in Lincoln, I am hopeful for a career improvement, hopefully this can be a sort of I'll See You in My Dreams type of hit for her and more projects will align.

The thing about Sally Field is that she's a very gifted actress but she's never had the respect that usually comes along being great. That lack of reverence has kept her hungry, and constantly pushing herself, chasing opportunities, even as roles winnowed. In a weird way, it's been a blessing. She's never calcified, she never phones it in, she tackles her projects as a newbie who has something to prove, everytime, even after 50 years. I dig her!

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

First of all, Max Greenfield has been a miracle ever since New Girl.
Tyne Daly!!! Character Actress Margo Martindale should share some of her roles with this woman.
Sally fucking Field. Really wants to see this one and I personally thank her for Sybil, one of the greatest performances ever on TV.

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I have a feeling I am going to see it and really like it and then hate myself for really liking it.

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

Thanks Nat. :)

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

Loved this movie. My fellow audience members also seemed to be having a great time. Certainly, it's one of the cuter entries in the "Women who Lie to Themselves" series. ;-)

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

"Tilda Swinton but she lives inside her own space and time continuum."
No lies detected.

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKieran Scarlett

The way she really had to work to get the role she really yearned for in Lincoln endeared her to me all over again. She had to prove to Spielberg she could do it--that says so much about her humility and love for the work itself. She and Max look completely adorable together. And I love Tyne Daly.

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

@Carmen Sandiego. Nicely put! I hope this film comes out in Singapore soon. I really want to see films starring older actresses, actresses of different races in leading roles. Someone needs to give Joan Chen, Debra Winger, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin, Gong Li meaty meaty roles in good, great films!

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBlueMoon02

In Hollywood I mean. But whatever, International Cinema is what truly matters.

March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBlueMoon02

The film's ever shifting tones, as clunky as an old jalopy, fluctuate between comedy and mournfulness and for the most part achieves neither. At the film's conclusion,Doris has fallen prey to an unrequited infatuation, the dissolution of a fantasized relationship and repetitive utterances of "I'm possible," and yet she still manages to achieve a seismic emotional breakthrough. An unsatisfying home and work life has been deconstructed and it appears our titular character has connected with a newly powerful and confident inner self. Viewers may reckon the once regaled healing and transformative powers that are uniquely derived from true love may indeed be unnecessary and completely overrated.

March 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKrissy

Sally Field is one of my absolute faves - so I am DEFINITELY going to see this.

And from the trailer it looks like Tyne Daly might finally get an Oscar nomination.

Yep I know it is way too early to predict but the trailer does look promising for Tyne and of course Sally.

March 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Looking forward to seeing this one. As for Steel Magnolias, I've always thought Sally's performance, particularly in the cemetery scene, was extraordinary.

March 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDianne

I so want to be Sally Field, Tyne Daly AND Lily Tomlin when I grow up, and I'm 52!

March 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJennie

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