The first half of HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS is very awkward. Whether it’s one of Doris’ mid-day fantasies, or a time where she’s just doing something mighty cringe-worthy, half the laughs from the first third (or two) are done with shoulders-tight, squinted eyes, and hopes that no one actually acts that way. But by the time the film is done, they’ve made up for whatever weird ground they’ve covered and the result is a film with plenty of heart.
Sally Field is the eponymous Doris, who gets a major crush for the new art director at her work, and he happens to be at least a couple decades her junior. While there’s plenty of potential involved here, it’s tough to determine just how much older Doris is, and I spent part of the film trying to figure that out. It’s at least 30 years. Part of the problem is that Doris’ on-screen brother (played by Stephen Root) doesn’t look his age (65 in real life), and his wife is played by Wendi McLendon-Covey, who is 18 years Root’s junior in real life, 23 years younger than Sally Field, and might I add that Wendi doesn’t necessarily look like a woman in her late 40s (which is not a slight to women in their late 40s, it’s a compliment to McLendon-Covey)! Granted, it’s very feasible for a woman to have a brother who is 7 years younger, and it’s just as feasible that that man could have a wife who is 8 years younger than him. Sally Field could easily play someone in their early-to-mid 60s, despite being 70, so I guess it all works out, but the way it’s presented, with Doris’ friend seemingly retired and having a teenage granddaughter, just adds an element of confusion and a bit more creepiness to Doris’ already creepy attempts at flirting with her much younger co-worker.
Somehow, the story feels mostly natural, aside from some of the awkwardness. It’s believable that these two individuals could be friends, and that there might be an attraction that could happen in either direction. Part of that is probably due to Sally Field being a major babe back in her day… 50 years ago. As the film reaches its culmination, it hits on a few things that really help develop Doris and the art director as characters, giving them more depth and helping ease us into feeling comfortable with what transpires. A major credit to the screenwriters, who probably should’ve gone back to the first half of the film and really considered whether to keep certain parts of scenes in the film. Like Sally Field sitting on an exercise/yoga ball WHILE her crush inflates it with a hand pump. Who would do that?!
My rating: 80 out of 100