Thursday, March 17, 2016

Older woman, younger man

Credit Sally Field with keeping Hello, My Name is Doris on track.

Sally Field's new comedy Hello, My Name is Doris begins with a funeral. Field's Doris Miller has just lost her mother. For most of her adult life, Doris cared for her mother in the Staten Island home the two women shared.

Now in her 60s and newly liberated from familial duties, Doris is ready (sort of) to resume her life. It's hardly surprising then, that Doris attempts to pick up where she left off.

Reverting to a long-ago moment in her squandered youth, Doris falls for John (Max Greenfield), a young art director who works in the office where she toils away at the fine art of data entry.

A hoarder and idiosyncratic dresser, Doris connives to become part of John's life. It doesn't take much imagination to know that Doris will read more into this relationship than John. He sees her as a good-hearted and adventurous older woman with a taste for '50s fashion.

John can't believe Doris actually likes his favorite band. In reality, she doesn't. Doris learned about John's musical tastes by faking a youthful identity and becoming one of his Facebook friends. It's not easy for Doris to accept the fact that she's aged out of a young person's dating game.

It would be misleading to tag Hello, My Name is Doris as a comic masterpiece. Director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) sometimes allows the movie's contrivances to show. Moreover, the movie can't always encompass its broad range of tones -- from the overtly comic to the heavily emotional.

But Field holds the movie together through its various turns with Tyne Daly offering able support as one of Doris's long-standing friends and the movie's intermittently expressed voice of common sense.

Greenfield supplies the requisite charm in what has become increasingly rare, a big-screen portrayal of a truly decent guy.

In another plot current, Doris battles her brother (Stephen Root) and his wife (Wendi McLendon-Convey). They want Doris to declutter and move. They also want their share of the proceeds from the home's sale.

To that end, they've introduced Doris to a therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) who's supposed to help with the overwhelming task of deaccession.

But even here, Showalter resists the temptation to over-sharpen conflict. He seems to understand that the movie's beating heart belongs to Field. She's playing a woman who, through the course of the story, learns that her quirky ways needn't lock her in isolation but can be viewed as the defining characteristics of an irrepressible individuality.

It may not be perfect, but by the time it ends, you may be a little sorry to say goodbye to Hello, My Name is Doris.

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