By Richard von Busack
Mortality shades director Michael Showalter’s comedy Hello, My Name Is Doris. The slight but endearing plot has an armature—a significant mention of Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie sets the stage. Like poor Laura Wingfield, Doris (Sally Field) has been walled up tending to her aged mother, and is gradually turning into a trash-picker and a cat-pamperer.
Sixty-something Doris still works 9-5, rocking her batty personal style at a chic clothing manufacturer in Manhattan; she’s bedecked with bows, found objects and a double pair of glasses. Doris has these excellent vintage mother-of-pearl-encrusted cat’s spectacles that she can’t give up even if she can’t read with them on. Her eyesight is good enough to see a new marketing person, John (New Girl’s blandly cute Max Greenfield), and she falls for him hard and fast, even though he’s about 40 years younger than she is.
Speaking of eyes, they’re the last thing to go on an actress, and Field’s are sharp, dark and expressive. It’s a strange experience to see an actress evolve from a 1960s beach bunny to an elder, but there’s a lot that time hasn’t worn away. Field plays her comedy in a hushed, ladylike voice, and she’s lithe enough to fit into spandex when she descends into Brooklyn.
“These people have welcomed me into their world,” Doris says, and the excursion of course is bittersweet. The film doesn’t fire on all cylinders, despite agile support by Natasha Lyonne and Tyne Daly: We’re not allowed to take the crush all that seriously. Still, Field—in nearly every scene—savors the material and runs with it. Likability has never been her problem, and you see a strange, merry spirit that never seems too manically pixiesh to bear. The film isn’t as mordant as Harold and Maude; it’s more like the odd romances of the ’80s, like Sugar Baby and I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing.