Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hello, My Name is Doris (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Sally Field has made a career out of earnest and accessible "girl next door" portraits. Many remember her from the "Smokey and the Bandit" films while others recall a kitschy flying nun, and still more recall Gidget on TV during the mid-sixties.  Field did excellentlyin 2012's "Lincoln" as Mary Todd, nominated for an Oscar.  Suffice to say, she is a disciplined and energetic actor and most have grown, if not to "really, really like her" to admire her.

In "Hello, My Name Is Doris" directed by Michael Showalter, Field plays the title role this heartfelt and spirited comedy that never becomes cloying or sticky sweet with an after-taste. Doris is an office worker who is now a kind of mascot. A new department head is brought in from Malibu: the handsome John (Max Greenfield).  Quirky and middle-aged Doris is instantly struck by the younger, Clark Kentish new employee, yet she relegates John to fantasy, thinking that a relationship is unrealistic.

On the surface, the film is much like "The Intern."  Here is another likable character a bit past her prime who wants to make it with another young crowd. But where that film got silly and formulaic, this story remains fresh. This is due to the fine acting by Sally Field and Max Greenfield. The two show an authenticity and have an amusing chemistry. Better yet, the couple share the screen with a generosity, allowing for a comic or dramatic beat, along with facial expressions, a rare thing in any film. What might be canned at first glance, is bubbly and bouncing here.

 It's a Walter Mitty story as much as anything else with an overwhelmed Doris carried away by a lusty fugue. While some might see Doris as a cartoon character out of step with bright clothes and a bow, she is far from it. Rebuffed, Doris takes to the streets, physically stalking the laconic John and checking his Facebook page for intimate secrets.

The film wonderfully balances the warmth of Doris being accepted during a rave party against the drear of obsession and the stab of rejection. We see Doris peering through a store window, overcome by the door of someone who is cut off and labelled as the other. Then in a flash, she is back bouncing about the office and chatting away with her friend, Roz (Tyne Daly).

Doris is a kind of Annie Hall with a sliver of darkness. Fans of romantic affection will be well served but there is also plenty of tension and quirk, given the jumpy wilderness of Doris's moods and desires coupled with John's innocence.

Thankfully though, the film entertainingly moves back and forth between jubilant energy and visceral sadness and will keep you guessing.  While the theme of middle age sprouting once more is familiar, both its wildness and its restraint at key moments is what makes this film so watchable. It manages to retain its color and mystery, when so many others lose their charm in the last half hour.

The exceptional credit to "Hello, My Name Is Doris" is that you do still wonder who this lady is, and what she is really about, after the film.

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