Hello, My Name is Doris is sneaking into theaters this weekend and stars two-time Academy Award-winner Sally Field and New Girl's Max Greenfield. It's a sweet and wacky coming-of-age story about someone who should have arrived decades earlier.
Hello, My Name is Doris, actually began as an eight-minute short film written and directed by a film student. Michael Showalter viewed Laura Terruso's film, Doris and the Intern, while he was teaching at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. For him, it was love at first viewing.
"It was a very funny, very sweet, offbeat little film about a middle-aged office worker named Doris who marches to the beat of her own drummer," Showalter remembers. "She develops a crush on a teenage intern and when she realizes that it's unrequited, she steals his bicycle. Doris was a new kind of comedic protagonist with a lot of potential for development."
Showalter likes his quirky characters. He wrote Wet Hot American Summer, which didn't do particularly well in 2001, but has since grown into a cult classic. Fourteen years later he created the television series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp which featured all of the same cast. But Doris was something new.
"The character of Doris and her story were new and different," he says. "To begin with, there aren't a lot of movies that have an older actress playing the comedic lead role. She is an eccentric and, in a lot of ways, damaged person, but I also saw a great deal that I identified with and I think a lot of other people will, too."
In Showalter's mind, Doris and the Intern was too short to really show off the character. Collaborating with Terruso, the two were able to create a much larger and full story that explore more of who Doris is, where she came from and where she is going.
Doris Miller, played by Sally Field, has a good life. Not an exciting life, but a good one. She has a good friend (Tyne Daly), a good job that she has had "forever," a warm home full of her mother's odd stuff, an eclectic wardrobe and a huge smile. She is awkward but sweet. One day, John Fremont (Max Greenfield) the new art director enters her office and her life. She is smitten and then embarrassed because of it. She is in her twilight years while he is still a young pup. Still, they create a unique friendship.
"[Doris] is somewhat stunted emotionally, which in a lot of ways makes this an archetypal coming-of-age story," Showalter says. "What happens is that Doris falls in love for the first time and has to learn how to navigate romance. Even though chronologically she is in her 60s, she also has her heart broken for the first time, something that happens to most of most of when we are teenagers.
"In a lot of ways, she's unscathed by society," he continues. "There's a naiveté about her that allows her to do things and say things that are both very funny and surprising, but also speak to her humanity. She still has the idealism of a child. That's really appealing to me. She's not jaded in the way that most of us become as we get older."
In the hands of another director, Hello, My Name is Doris could be a cold tale of a crazy woman. Instead it is one of heart. It is also one of the few films that actually celebrates "older people." As Doris keeps challenging herself to try new things and meet new people, she is not rejected which surprises her and her old time friend who cautions Doris to "be careful."
The film is receiving a lot of good reviews too. Sean P. Means from The Salt Lake Tribune says, "Field's charm rises to the top, turning Doris' many neuroses into a fully realized and tenderly sympathetic character," and Rafer Guzman from Newsday calls the film, "A winning comedy-drama built around one of cinema's most endearing leading ladies." Still, Doris isn't for everybody. Frank Swietek from One Guy's Opinion says, "Alternately sweet and kind of creepy...an invitation you might want to skip."
Hello, My Name is Doris also stars Beth Behrs, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Stephen Root, Elizabeth Reaser, Natasha Lyonne, Peter Gallagher, and Isabella Acres. It opens in theaters on March 18, 2016.
[Photo by Aaron Epstein – Courtesy of Roadside Attractions]