Many of you will be too young to get the following reference, but, I'm sorry, I can't resist: Doris, we don't like you. We really don't like you.
That's a paraphrase of the famously embarrassing acceptance speech that Sally Field gave in 1985 after winning a Best Actress Oscar — her second — for Places in the Heart. (If you young folks google the speech, you may need to google the completely forgotten movie while you're at it.) The veteran performer now has an even bigger source of embarrassment — and this time, believe me, there's not the remotest chance of an Academy Award getting involved.
It's a long way down from Lincoln (2012), in which Field played the troubled, complex Mary Todd, to Hello, My Name Is Doris, in which she plays the troubled but not even slightly complex title character. Words like "caricature" and "cartoon" come to mind.
Doris Miller is a sixtysomething single woman who's devoted her adult life to caring for her ailing mother. Except for the time she spends as an accountant at a Brooklyn clothing company, her existence has revolved around the old woman and the colossal hoard of worthless, useless junk the two have allowed to take over their Staten Island home.
As the film opens, Doris' mother has just died. Her brother (Stephen Root, in a role that's the definition of thankless) encourages her to clean up the place so it can be sold, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. Doris, we learn, has inherited the hoarding gene and isn't interested in parting with a single piece of trash.
Somehow, through a process that's never explained, this obsession has come to define not only Doris' lifestyle but her fashion sense, as well. She dresses like a bag lady who sneaks nips of peach brandy from her vintage purse all day. So we are not exactly shocked to discover that she's viewed as the office nut job.
Riding the elevator to work one morning, Doris finds herself sardined face-to-face with a handsome stranger half her age. He turns out to be the company's new art director, John Fremont (Max Greenfield). Doris is smitten, and the movie deteriorates into a sitcom-y series of ridiculous, not to mention condescending, situations in which she attempts to win her unsuspecting coworker's heart.
Director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) and cowriter Laura Terruso leave no cliché unturned. A friend's granddaughter shows Doris how to stalk John on Facebook (somehow Doris has never heard of social media). She finds out what his favorite electronica band is and just happens to bump into him at a concert.
But the laziest and most annoying device has to be the film's fantasy sequences. Again and again, Doris winds up in John's arms at the office, only to have someone snap her out of her reverie by repeating her name, at which point she's revealed standing slumped with her eyes closed and her mouth open. For a story ostensibly about the pluck of a woman who's made great sacrifices, these scenes come tastelessly close to mockery.
Hello, My Name Is Doris never succeeds at being funny enough to qualify as a comedy. And the movie has way too few moments that we can take seriously to be considered a drama. I'm not sure what this is, beyond a tiresome oddity for the viewer and a career low for its star. Something tells me the most sensible way to deal with Doris is simply not to say hello in the first place.