Published Apr 21, 2016For the most part, it's probably fair to say that the boys in Stella — the surreal New York City comedy trio comprised of Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black and David Wain — have been sort of hit or miss since the group's demise in the mid-2000s. But if Wain's 2014 film They Came Together and last year's Wet Hot American Summer reboot were any indication, they're refining their comedy in their old age.
So it's fitting that Hello, My Name is Doris, Showalter's first feature-length film since 2005's The Baxter, stars a 69-year-old Sally Field who happens to deliver one of the best performances of her career after being absent from a lead role for a couple of decades.
Field plays the title character in this low-budget indie comedy, a film that's so on the nose with its subtle jabs and observations about hipster culture it makes Noah Baumbach's films feel heavy-handed in comparison.
A leftover from when chunky jewellery and high-waisted skirts were cool the first time around, to her coworkers, Doris comes across as a dawdling loner who can't keep up. But underneath her quirky exterior lies a fragile figure shaped by missed opportunities and personal problems (primarily hoarding, in the home she shares with her glutton of a cat).
A chance encounter on an elevator introduces her to John Fremont (played by New Girl's Max Greenfield), the new artistic director at the catalogue company she works at as an accountant. John's presence stirs something inside of her, and after many years of being a borderline recluse in Staten Island, Doris decides to make her fantasies a reality and force John to fall in love with her.
To do so, Doris takes part in all kinds of dastardly schemes and scary, new age forms of self-actualization, but it never feels fully uncomfortable, even when her advances are beyond awkward. She's a woman on a mission, and the ways she opens herself up to the world — from attending late-night electro-pop concerts hosted by Baby Goya (pop music mastermind Jack Antonoff at his most culturally aware) to joining an LGBTQ knitting club — can't help but challenge viewers' preconceived notions about seniors. Even the other characters seem to notice, as John and the millennials in their workplace start to realize that Doris is actually kind of cool, and cute too.
Hello, My Name is Doris is not your traditional comedy, with as many raw emotional moments as there are jokes about the supposedly down-to-earth lives of Bushwick bohemians and their ilk. But if you're looking for a funny film with the first Oscar-buzz-worthy performance of the year, here it is.