Ok, I’ve got a frontrunner for the best of the festival.
All day I’ve been telling people that I’m looking forward to Hello, My Name is Doris, and for the most part I’ve been met with blank looks. Those usually changed to something easily interpreted as, “Ooookay, whatever floats your boat,” when I paraphrase the logline for them: an aging woman who gets adopted by hipsters who like her style. As it turns out, that’s not an entirely accurate summation, but nonetheless, I am vindicated! Hello, My Name is Doris is wonderful!
Sally Field actually plays an aging hoarder, Doris, whose mother has just died and who falls in love with the much younger new guy at work (Max Greenfield, New Girl). To relate further plot summary might make the movie sound more straight-up rom-com than it actually is, but even if that were the case, you have to figure the film is in good hands; director Michael Showalter’s last film was the stunning genre roast The Came Together.
The really amazing part of Hello, My Name is Doris is the way the film manages the tonal balance between some really heavy drama and an enormously funny script. I got a chance to ask Showalter about that, and he said it came down to character. “Hit ’em high, hit ’em low,” he said, talking about the blending of drama and comedy within a single scene. It shows. There are a couple points where Doris and her best friend get into heated arguments. After being admonished for listening to the advice of someone “too young to vote,” Doris retorts, “You don’t vote!” Then comes the response from her friend: “I’m a conscientious objector!”
Depth of character was something both Showalter and others in the production, including Sally Field, talked about in the post-screening Q&A. This film has characters in spades. Field mentioned how incredible it was to find a unique character like Doris when you’ve been around Hollywood for years. “It was just so weird!” she said of both woman and script. The movie does a great job of making sure its dialogue and plot elements are all character-building, and it pays off. There’s actually a pretty big supporting cast of characters around Doris, but they’re never in the way because they’re all meaningfully involved in the way scenes play out throughout the movie. The journey is Doris’s, but it’s facilitated by a smart mix of plot elements.
There are some other movies I’m excited to see this year. Among Cara, Erik, and I (the three of us from Mxdwn Movies covering SXSW this year), I think I ended up with the most comedies on the schedule, including big ones showing at the fest like Trainwreck, Spy, and Get Hard. But nevermind Doris‘s remarkable heart, they’re going to have trouble just matching the laughs.
I’m going to be at a panel with Sally Field tomorrow, so look forward to more Doris talk soon!