HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS (2016)

March 18, 2016

hello my name is doris Greetings again from the darkness. Hollywood has long ignored the pushback on its habit of casting younger women as the love interest of older men. In most of those movies, the relationships are treated as normal and expected. In the few movies that turn the tables, a relationship between an older woman and younger man is typically treated as either comedy or scandal … consider Harold and Maude (1971) and Notes on a Scandal (2006). In this latest film, writer/director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) and co-writer Laura Terruso strive to balance heartfelt emotions with situational laughs.

Sally Field returns to leading lady status as Doris, a never-married frumpy accountant in her late 60’s who has been living in her childhood home whilst caring for her ailing mother … hoarding everything from magazines to packaged food seasoning to a single water ski. The film begins with the open casket funeral of Doris’ mom, and we see her brother (Stephen Root) and his obnoxious and rude wife (Wendi McLendon) immediately pounce on Doris to clear out the clutter and sell the house. They even set her up with a hoarder specialist/therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) who finds the case quite challenging.

The real fun in the movie begins with a close encounter in the office elevator, when Doris and her cat-eye glasses come face to face with a handsome and charming young man who offers up a compliment – something Doris rarely experiences. Of course, a few minutes later, we learn the young man is John (Max Greenfield, “New Girl”), the new artistic director in Doris’ office. For years, Doris has depended upon cheesy romance novels to supply the fantasy in her life, and now the lessons from that reading kick into full gear.

It’s a night out with her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly) that results in a chance interaction with a cocky motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher) whose catchphrase is “Every week has seven days. None of them are named Someday”. He leaves Doris with this thought: “Impossible means I’m possible”. When combined with those romance novels, Doris now sees a realistic chance for love if she pursues the man of her dreams … the aforementioned (and half her age) John.

With the help of Roz’ teenage granddaughter (Isabella Acres), Doris learns how to Facebook stalk, and soon enough ends up at a concert with John’s favorite techno band, Baby Goya and Nuclear Winters (led by Jack Antonoff of Fun.). John and his group of hipster friends are enamored with Doris’ vintage clothes and quirky sense of style and speech. She soon finds herself posing in spandex for Baby Goya’s album cover, going to dinner parties, and joining a rooftop knitting group of millennials.

Judging by the boisterous laughing by women in the theatre, this is a prime GNO flick for women of all ages. Most of the comedic situations seemed pretty obvious and predictable, and I found some traits of Doris to be less than appealing. However, as a statement on what happens when the outside world passes by, and generational gaps become almost impossible to bridge, the film makes a bold statement on real friendship between mature women. It poses the question, what determines whether a personal awakening is real or imagined?

Sally Field (turning 70 in 2016) gives a terrific performance, and it goes much deeper than someone who puts her reading glasses on top of her regular glasses and wears giant bows in her giant hairpiece. Ms. Field has excelled in such previous work as “Sybil” (1975), Norma Rae (1978), Places in the Heart (1983), and Lincoln (2011). She understands comedy and human drama, and as Doris … you’ll kind of like her. You’ll really kind of like her!

watch the trailer:

 

 


THE FUTURE

August 21, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. Thanks to her 2005 debut film Me and You and Everyone We Know, I became a fan of Miranda July. Unfortunately that means reading a few of her short stories and waiting six years for her second (and equally independent) film. There is no rushing a creative genius, and there is certainly no obvious goal for capitalistic gains. With her second film, it appears she will somehow generate even fewer viewers, despite being a festival favorite.

The movie is bookended by the narration of Paw-Paw, an injured cat waiting to be adopted by Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater). In the cat’s voice we hear the hope of a new life – one that includes love and security. Things aren’t quite the same from the perspective of our two heroes.

 Sophie and Hamish are in many ways a typical couple. They sometimes speak their own language and when things are going good, they believe they can conquer all. However, hitting a bump means much doubt and and an avalanche of self-defeatist attitudes. The latest bump is the belief that adopting this cat will suck the freedom right out of their daily lives … in fact, they discuss the fact that because of their age (35), life and dreams are basically over. So, with 30 days til adoption, they seek to live life to the fullest. You know, before it’s all over.

 They both quit the jobs that have evidently been the burden keeping them from greater purpose. Jason works from home as an IT Help Desk agent and Sophie is the world’s absolute worst dance instructor for kids. Jason tries to find meaning by selling trees to save the environment. Sophie decides to make youtube videos – 30 Dances in 30 Days, but with mounting pressure, ends up under the bed covers before even one video is complete.

These two remind me of 8 year olds with advanced vocabularies. Somehow they think society or the universe owes them something and just by dreaming big, their lives will be complete. They each believe they have special powers: Sophie can move things with her mind (not really) and Jason can stop time (not sure). We see Jason fall under the spell of the most interesting character in the film – an octogenarian played by Joe Putterlik. We see Sophie fall into bed with Marshall (David Warshofsky), a 50ish single dad living in the suburbs.

 So here is some of what the film offers us: a slacker couple in a rundown apartment, same couple overwhelmed by the burden of adopting a cat, a crawling security blanket (t-shirt) that stalks its owner, a narrating cat, an empty affair with a mis-matched couple, an old man philosopher and his dirty-talk greeting cards, a discussion with the moon (yes, the moon), a young girl (wonderful Isabella Acres) who buries herself in the backyard with the approval of her dad, and (twice) the terrific Peggy Lee song “Where or When”.

Ms. July is married to filmmaker Mike Mills, who is responsible for this year’s terrific Beginners.  She is a fabulous observer of life and people and personalities. She seems to understand doubts and dreams, and carries an interest in what time lapse really means for us. Her manner of making these points and sharing her insight is quite off-beat from what we typically see in movies. I believe that makes it most important that she continue to produce her works. Unlike what I will say about her character in this film, The Future looks awfully bright for Miranda July.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are a fan of Miranda July OR you just want to tell your friends that you have seen a movie where the narrator is a re-habbing cat named Paw-Paw.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you rolled your eyes even once while reading the next to last paragraph in my review

watch the trailer: