All eyes are on Sally Field in this wacky film, Hello, My Name is Doris. She plays Doris, a 60-something spinster who has always thought her main purpose in life is to be of service to others, most importantly, her mother, who has just died. Doris works as a bookkeeper, and fellow employees mostly look past her, but on his first day, the new intern John, speaks to her in the elevator, and she is instantly smitten, thinking that he is flirting with her. He is simply a good-natured, polite young man, but she is only too ready to read more into it, feeling that life has passed her by.
The costume designer, Rebecca Gregg, should be praised for the get-ups she and Sally put together in the studio’s wardrobe department. They are something to behold—housewife attire from the 40’s and 50’s with a touch of mod. Doris is a shopper who has an eye for “finds” everywhere she goes. And she must have learned it from her mother, because her house is so overflowing with junk, her brother tries desperately to get her to sell it all and find another smaller place. (Ignore for the moment that he and his wife stand to gain from the sale of the house.)
The plot thickens when Vivian (Isabella Acres) the granddaughter of Doris’ friend introduces her to Facebook. Vivian is excited about the possibility of a romance, and being only 13 years old, she doesn’t notice age disparities. She sets up an account for Doris, who can then read to her heart’s content about John’s interests. Then Doris boldly makes up an identity for herself, sends a picture of a younger, good-looking woman and invites him to be her friend. He is intrigued by her picture and their “common interest” in music and accepts. Her next move is to get a recording of his favorite electronics band; and not only that, since the group is performing in the city, she buys a ticket to the concert. Of course, John is surprised to see her there, but once again is cordial and asks her to dance.
Doris is such an oddity in the concert setting—and the young crowd is really taken with her vintage outfits. They are charmed, and she gets introduced to the band leader, who, of all things, wants to put her picture on the cover of the band’s next album, thinking her outfit is so cool, and everyone is charmed by her kooky personality. The photo shoot is just as entertaining as the rest of the film.
Thereafter, John feels a genuine friendship with Doris, and invites her to meet his new girlfriend, which is hard on Doris and throws her for a loop. But the girlfriend is just as cordial as John, and invites Doris to one of her own events. The story then takes a more serious course that involves misunderstandings, clarifications, and disappointments.
This is one of those rare films that is alternately funny, serious, and enlightening. Deep down, it has soul, and who better to bring it to life than the exquisitely talented Sally Field? Director Michael Showalter and his co-writer Laura Terruso have presented us with a gem of a film.
Ridiculous and funny, but what soul!
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland