There seems to be a trend lately to give every actress nearing (or over) the age of 70 a film to showcase her talents. Charlotte Rampling proved her brilliance in the heartbreaking 45 Years. Lily Tomlin commanded the screen in Grandma, and Blythe Danner was beautifully delicate in I’ll See You in My Dreams. Sally Field has been an actress that has received more acclaim than any of them, but she joins their ranks in the beautifully sweet and bitterly funny Hello, My Name is Doris, a film about aging and falling love, and how the two might not be that mutually exclusive, but rather it is possible to both grow old and have the ability to fall deeply in love with someone. However, this is wrapped up in a cynically hilarious comedy that features Sally Field’s best performance in decades.
The film tells the story of Doris Miller, an elderly cat lady that has recently suffered the loss of her mother, and has to come to terms with her new life, as she had only ever known the life she had caring for her mother. In addition to this, Doris works in data-capture at a trendy New York City design office, and it is here that she is truly captivated by John Fremont (Max Greenfield), the new executive. She falls instantly in love with him – and despite him possibly being less than half her age, she disregards the age gap and is determined to win the heart of the much younger man, and attempts to make him feel the same way about her that she does for him – difficult when he is clearly not interested, and he sees her rather as the quirky old lady rather than as someone that he would genuinely consider dating. It is in this ridiculous premise that we discover the true comedy of this film – it is a film that is so absolutely ludicrous and unbelievably far-fetched in its audacity, that it becomes extraordinarily human and real, and that even though we know there isn’t much of a chance that Doris is going to have her wish fulfilled, and the much younger and far more trendy young man is going to fall for her, we still actively hope that by some twist of fate, it works out for Doris.
Sally Field quite frankly has never been better. I will admit that I have not been her biggest supporter – I always found her lovely, but thought her acting was severely lacking, and that she constantly played the same sweet but wise character in many of her films. I wanted her to have a challenge, and even though she attempted to play Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln, which should have been a massively juicy performance, she managed to still make it, well, dull. Hello, My Name is Doris may not be a film that requires an actress to undergo a particularly difficult challenge, but it did require much more out of Field than I have previously seen. This role may not be incredibly difficult, but it is surely one that required any actress to give it their all, and Field rose up to the challenge. A character without any redeeming qualities other than being a cute old lady is one that many have capitalized on, but in Hello, My Name is Doris, it requires much more, such as the fact that the character is far more developed and three-dimensional than typical elderly characters in much of cinema, and the film couldn’t rely only on traditional “granny tropes”. Part of the success of Hello, My Name is Doris is because the character was well-developed enough on the page to make her a very likable and endearing character – but it was Field that made her something unique. I will just re-iterate that Sally Field’s performance in Hello, My Name is Doris is nothing groundbreaking or new, but rather something endearing and sweet, and a great showcase for a very talented actress. I am really impressed in the recent movement to give actresses of “a certain age” these wonderful leading roles, and I hope that Hollywood continues to remember their veterans by giving them meaningful lead roles in great films.
Field is fantastic, but the rest of the cast is also very good. Tyne Daly has the ability to steal the show, regardless of what it is she is appearing in. She has such a natural charisma and strong personality, and one that is impossible to not adore. In Hello, My Name is Doris, she plays Roz, the steadfast and politically active (although “politically senile” is a far more accurate term) best friend of Doris who offers her advice, even if that advice eventually falls on deaf ears. Daly is absolutely wonderful, and she makes the best of a role that isn’t as fully developed as it could have been and turned it into one of the most memorable supporting performances of the year.
Doris’ love interest is played by Max Greenfield, best known for his performance as Schmidt on New Girl. Greenfield departs from the very overt and sometimes grotesque caricature that is Schmidt to play John, a role that didn’t require much out of him other than to simply exist. It is clear that Field and Greenfield had chemistry, and they are great together. Greenfield perhaps isn’t good enough to warrant much praise, but his performance only serves to boost and complement that of Field. The rest of the cast is composed of smaller but not completely insignificant parts. Each performance serves to work towards making this film as unique as it is, and while it is undeniably a showcase for Field, the performances of the entire cast allows for it to be elevated beyond where one would expect for it to go.
What exactly made Hello, My Name is Doris such a wonderful film? Perhaps it is the fact that it is just absolutely adorable – sweet and meaningful, and with a permanent sense that even in its most bleak moments, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does have an undercurrent of serious subject matter and it does comment on some social problems, but other than that, it is simply just a sweet little film, and one that is an unconventional romance. It manages to keep the audience captivated, despite it essentially being about the misadventures of a delusional and very shy old lady that longs for something more in life – I found myself utterly engrossed in the story, and it is just extraordinarily entertaining. Not to sound like a broken record, but independent cinema allows for films like this to be made, where simple but effective stories can be told without any cliches and tropes from mainstream Hollywood affecting it. This film is wonderfully sweet, and one again, despite not being unique or groundbreaking, it is still extraordinarily entertaining.
I adored this film. I thought it was an absolute riot. It was just absolutely wonderful and a true delight to watch. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and rather is just very funny and very sweet. Sally Field is just wonderful in it, and her supporting cast does a great job of complementing her performance. There are many films more unique than Hello, My Name is Doris, but very few this sweet and meaningful, and I thought it was just an absolute delight, and the world would be a far better place if more films like this were made.