Saturday, May 7, 2016

Doris, you knew that couldn't end well: a film observation

When we came out of the movie Hello My Name Is Doris I told Dan I was a little disappointed in it. What I didn't tell him is that I had spent the first 40-50 minutes feeling — I don't know, embarrassed, I guess — and hoping there was going to be some kind of interesting and amazing twist to get me out of there.

Well, there wasn't so I had to think my way through it and finally come to a conclusion that explains the problem I have with it.

To start with, the problem is not Sally Field. I love Sally Field and she's a great actress.

She plays Doris.

It wasn't the way Doris dressed.

Sally Field as Doris

I've had too many conversations over too many years with people who talk about "dressing your age." Dress however you please! Dress in whatever makes you feel comfortable — or if you're not comfortable and you just like the way you look, dress like that! Don't listen to anyone who wants to tell you how to dress!

Doris' style is very individual and I can't even imagine her in stuffy little suits or housedresses.

Doris lived with her mother all her life in an over-stuffed/cluttered Staten Island House. She takes the ferry and two subways to her job in Manhattan where she works in a cubicle in an office with a collection of good-looking young people. Early in the movie, her mother passes away and Doris has to deal with her brother and a hostile sister-in-law about estate matters and with a therapist who specializes in "hoarders."

The main plot-line though involves Doris and John, a new co-worker.

When I was telling Dan how I felt the movie had gone wrong, I believed it to be the age difference between Doris and John that made me uncomfortable. Doris is pushing 70; they never say how old John is although I read in a couple of reviews that he's 35. He looks more like 27 to me.

Doris and John

Doris is very attracted to John. She misreads a couple of his signals and believes he feels the same way about her. She actively and blatantly pursues him with the help of the 13-year-old granddaughter of her best friend who helps her set up a fake Facebook account to stalk him and helps her understand certain millennial lingo. (I'm describing the movie accurately but somehow, it sounds worse than it really was.)

I don't know, I said to Dan later. Maybe if he were a little older — say in his 40s — I wouldn't feel that it's all a little inappropriate.

But after thinking about it some more, I realized I was wrong. I wasn't wrong about how the movie handled it; I was wrong about what the problem was.

There was nothing wrong with the way Doris was feeling. Of course she was attracted to John. Look at him!

Max Greenfield as John

He's kind and sweet and funny. He's handsome — on my Jon-Hamm-handsome-o-metre, he's right up there, in the eight or nine bracket.

Doris being attracted to John — physically, sexually — was perfectly natural. I enjoyed thinking about that; I was glad the movie acknowledged her feelings so frankly.

I did not, however, enjoy the boy-crazy, manipulative way she pursued him. You knew that couldn't end well. I think it would have been a better movie if it had dealt honestly — and bawdily — with the sexy way she was feeling, with her fantasies, with exchanging confidences with her best friend. But clearly, the source of my discomfort was that she was setting herself up to be humiliated and I really didn't want to be a witness to that.

Having said all that, there were a lot of good moments in the film. I'm glad to see a really good role for Sally Field — as I was for Lily Tomlin in Grandma. All the supporting actors were great. Tyne Daly, for example, can do no wrong.

Tyne Daly as Roz with Doris

An interesting fact: This movie was made in three weeks for $1 million. There should be an award for that.

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