Doris Miller is a deeply flawed human being, making questionable decisions that range from kind of creepy to borderline insane. The reason this characters works is because of our leading lady’s delightful performance. Despite having two Best Actress Oscars to her name, we don’t see Sally Field in nearly enough leading roles these days. In Hello, My Name Is Doris, Field proves that she’s still more than capable of elevating a film’s overall quality. Where Doris could’ve been an incredibly despicable character with another casting choice, Field molds her into a lovable, identifiable woman we strangely root for.
Our title character is an aging cat lady/hoarder that’s spent most of her adult life taking care of her mother, who recently passed away. Analyzing her life, Doris realizes that she’s been too afraid to put herself out there. Upon meeting a handsome, much younger co-worker named John (Max Greenfield), she decides to finally seize the day and pursue a relationship with the object of her affection. John takes a liking to Doris, although he doesn’t view her in a sexual manner. To get closer to him, Doris starts stalking John on Facebook, which of course backfires eventually.
Greenfield makes for a likable love interest. We also get some nice supporting work from Tyne Daly as Doris’ loving best friend, Stephen Root as her caring brother, and Wendi McLendon-Covey as her cynical sister-in-law. The film belongs to Field, however, and she completely nails her role. There are moments in Hello, My Name Is Doris where the audience may think, “Seriously? This woman is so needy and pathetic.” Yet, Field really digs inside herself and brings out this character’s humanity. Even though we know Doris is likely setting herself up for disaster, we sympathize with her regardless. Part of you even wants to just give her a hug.
There are a lot of people out there like Doris. You know, quiet, socially awkward types that fear change and resist taking any chances. Then when they do actually try to take what they want, they end up flying too close to the sun. The same could be said about anybody who’s fallen in love with somebody who was clearly out of their league. There are times when it looks like this film might go down the Harold and Maude route, but it remains grounded in a more realistic universe.
Of course something like Harold and Maude also took more chances with its romance and overall narrative. Michael Showalter’s film doesn’t have many surprises and it’s fairly obvious where the story will go. We might have had a truly great picture on our hands if Showalter and co-writer Laura Terruso had relied a little less heavily on sitcom humor and indie comedy tropes. Nevertheless, Hello, My Name Is Doris is cute, sweet, and sincere while also touching base on a few timely subjects. Much like Doris herself, the movie may have its problems, but you can’t help but be won over in the end.