Hello, My Name is Doris – Review

Who knew that such a gem could be found in this movie about a quirky and wildly romantic aging woman? Doris is more than just a sixty-something hoarder who had to live with her mother her whole life and never left home (or her comfort zone, for that matter). Doris is a profound character with hopes and dreams and a very peculiar fondness for romance novels. We follow her along a ferry ride to New York, where she works. We cringe at the sight of every little piece of junk that she has kept over the years and that pile up in her house in Staten Island. More importantly, we care about her.

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The film starts at a funeral for Doris’ Mom. Our protagonist lived her entire life with her mother and never left Staten Island, except for her daily ferry ride to work. Routine took over and her only pleasure was found through reading Harlequin novels and picking up things left on the street by strangers.

On the way to her first day back at work, after the funeral, Doris finds a gorgeous lamp on the street which she decides to put on her desk. She walks into a packed elevator, gets very close to a young man with great style and a jaw to swoon over, and starts fantasizing: Open mouth, eyes closed – fantasizing.

They both get off on the same floor and Doris walks to her desk, placing her burgundy lamp down, and hears the news that the chairs were switched for exercise balls. Her routine was disturbed, a shift was happening in the universe, and the hot young guy, played by Max Greenfield, had just been hired in her office. The last part wasn’t so bad.

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Then began the blossoming of a soon-to-be gigantic crush. We have a saying in French, ”tu le vois dans ta soupe”, which could be translated as ”you think about him so much you see him in your soup”. Well, Doris saw him in her coffee mug. With the help of Vivian (Isabella Acres), a 13 year-old vegan, she stalks John Fremont on Facebook, creating a fake account to learn things about him, and thus begins her quest for him to notice her. Doris brings him coffee, she even buys the latest album of his favorite band ”Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters”. Slowly, they become friends. Her life takes a turn onto the most magical and unreal path for a socially awkward 60-year old woman who wears cat eye glasses and lives in Staten Island surrounded by clutter.

What I liked the most about the movie, outside of the stellar cast, was the cinematography. Brian Burgoyne created picture perfect scenes through his lenses, a style that reminded me of Xavier Dolan in Les Amours Imaginaires. The director, Michael Showalter, really took the time to instill a quirky vibe to the film through the costumes and make-up, most clearly, but also through the use of bright colours.

The story feels bubbly but there is something raw and true about Doris and the fact that she isn’t ”acting her age.” People around her judge the choices she makes to go to concerts and party with people in their 20s, but she’s finally enjoying herself and tastes freedom for the first time in her life. It’s inspiring, and Sally Field yields an unreal performance all the way through, making us laugh when she’s daydreaming in the middle of the hallway but also cry when she faces her demons and her fears.

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I will not lie, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, much more than I thought I would. Let me also add that the film won the Audience Awards at the SXSW Film Festival in 2015! Hello, my name is Doris has a wonderful narrative, the characters are wild and fun, and the ending, not to spoil anything, left enough to the imagination for me to leave satisfied.

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