The quirky comedy, Hello, My Name Is Doris, pivots on the presumption, held by the title character (Sally Field), that her new, much younger co-worker, John (Max Greenfield), is as infatuated with her as she is with him. They meet cute in a crowded elevator where they are so close together that their bathing suit areas may be touching. The ambiguity in this scene serves the comedy because viewers understand that Doris, who has just lost her mother, might find some pleasure in the attention of an attractive young man about whom she fantasizes. When Doris asks John to pump the inflatable ball that she is forced to use as a desk chair, he pumps her full of energy and desire. When she creates a fake profile on Facebook to stalk John, Doris discovers his favorite bands, and contrives to attend a concert to run into him. Not surprisingly, hanging out with John helps the shy Doris start to have the time of her life.
However, director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) clearly indicates John’s interest in the fixated Doris is platonic. This makes Doris more pathetic than sympathetic. It is enjoyable watching the odd couple connect over broken hearts, but it’s frustrating when Doris skips Thanksgiving with her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly) to seduce John. While there is some amusement that Doris is taking dating advice from Roz’s teenage granddaughter, Vivian (Isabella Acres), it is less funny to see Doris mistakenly assume a friendly kiss, or a query about “younger men” as overtures for something more romantic.
Doris may see John as a kind of hope for love she missed during her life, which was spent caring for her mother. A subplot involves Doris’s brother, Todd (Stephen Root), hiring a therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) to help Doris with her hoarding issues. (Todd wants Doris to sell the family house, for selfish reasons). The idea that Doris collects things for sentimental value explains some of her peculiar behavior—such as stealing a pencil that belongs to John and using it as a talisman for their relationship. But this theme of letting go of things becomes a tired and obvious metaphor.
Field does acquit herself quite well in the role, fitting nicely in Doris’ funky clothes and hairpieces. There is a terrific scene of Field, the spokewoman for the osteoporosis drug, Boniva, dancing to the electronic band John likes, first at home, and then in a club. And she has some fantastic expressions, as when she fantasizes about kissing John, or when she listens to Brooklyn (Beth Behrs) singing in a coffee shop.
Greenfield seems to be a good sport throughout, and Tyne Daly lends fine support as the more practical Roz. The other cast members, Behrs, Root and Natasha Lyonne who plays a co-worker, seem wasted. Hello, My Name Is Doris, has its moments, but overall this modest film could have been smarter, and funnier.
Hello, My Name is Doris opens today in Philly area theaters.