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Hello, My Name Is Doris

(2015) ** 1/2 R
95 min. Red Crown Productions. Director: Michael Showalter. Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Tyne Daly, Beth Behrs.

/content/films/4895/1.jpgSome movies are bound to be forgotten quickly, but are simply too…nice…to be dismissed. Such movies are a pleasant enough way to while away an hour and a half, usually not because of a fresh plot, funny situations, or even fascinating characters, but rather because of a winning performer given plenty of room to play. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris.

This modest indie laffer in the “not dead yet” genre turns Field frumpy (but fun!) to play Doris Miller, a sixty-something Staten Island resident who daily ferries herself to a hip Manhattan fashion outfit to toil in quiet desperation as an accountant. When thirty-something new art director John Fremont (charming Max Greenfield) shows up, an instantly smitten Doris gravitates to his casual show of warmth like a moth to a flame. Doris’ best friend Roz (Tyne Daly) frowns at her friend’s crush, but Roz’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter (Isabella Acres) is all about it, and begins coaching Doris in social media and dating mores.

A more sophisticated comedy might’ve made more of the absurdity of a millennial coaching a Baby Boomer to appeal to a Generation X-er, but Doris just leaves that one there as a passing plot device with only the mildest of satirical aims. The whole movie—co-scripted by director Michael Showalter and Laura Terusso (on whose short film the feature is based)—is kind of like that: unambitious but amusing, broadly conceived but reasonably grounded by the actors. Showalter contentedly takes cheap shots (on behalf of a youth-centric society) then tends the wounds with compassionate sympathy.

Doris’ collection of quirks include colorfully clashing outifts, a pet cat (natch), and “a clutter habit” targeted by her brother (Stephen Root) and his wife (Wendi McLendon-Covey), in concert with a hapless therapist (Elizabeth Reaser). Doris’ deeply rooted issues lend the film enough dramatic grist to support a classic Fieldian breakdown, but Doris is at its best when zoomed in on the relationship between Doris and John. Unlikely as it may be, the relationship begins to seem as plausible to us as to the willfully optimistic Doris, which is a testament to the performers transcending the script’s default mode of condescension.

Doris considers her own desire only due to a self-help program called “I’m Possible,” in which Peter Gallagher’ credit-card-accepting guru peddles inspirational-poster wisdom like “There are seven days in the week, and someday isn’t one of them.” The new Doris predictably becomes a hit with the hipsters when she takes in a “Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters” concert at a Brooklyn nightclub. But what makes Doris worthwhile are the intimate moments between Field and Greenfield, and the physical- comical moments (also at one point intimate) between Field and her impractical new office chair.

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