Hello, My Name is Doris

Posted on March 17, 2016 at 5:14 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Sad offscreen death, wrenching emotional confrontations
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: March 18, 2016
Date Released to DVD: June 12, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B01F08XCAG

Copyright Roadside 2016
Copyright Roadside 2016
Thank you, Michael Showalter, for giving American treasure Sally Field a role that gives her a chance to show us not just what she is capable of but what it means to fully inhabit a character with enough sensitivity and tenderness to illuminate the world.

In the very first seconds of the film, where we meet the title character at the funeral of the mother she has spent her life caring for, we are asked to look at the kind of person we prefer to ignore. It is the funeral of the mother she has spent her life caring for, and she is bereft, not only of her mother, but of her sense of who she is and what she is in the world. She is odd and needy and repressed. She wears a jumble of mismatched clothes and a frowsy topknot of a hairpiece. She works with a bunch of brisk, hip young people who ignore her. She has a feisty best friend named Roz, played with enormous gusto by Tyne Daly. Roz is so left wing that she comforts herself about here daughter’s imprisonment for for auto theft, because she stole a fuel-efficient hybrid. And she lives in the same house she grew up in, packed full of stuff that she holds onto because of memories or because some day it might be useful. When Roz points out that her refrigerator contains packets of duck sauce that have been there since the 1970’s, Doris responds with incendiary ferocity: “IT KEEPS!”

There’s someone new in Doris’ office. His name is John Fremont (a warm and magnetic Max Greenfield). Doris, whose emotions have been on ice even longer than the duck sauce, somehow explodes with emotion when she sees him.

With her mother gone, Doris begins to have the kind of agonizing crush that most of us get over by the end of middle school. With the help of Roz’s teenage granddaughter, Doris friends John on Facebook under a pseudonym, and then uses what she learns there to make him think they have interests in common, including a band called Nuclear Winter. Doris decides to attend a Nuclear Winter performance, and like Alice through the looking glass, she finds the club an opposite world, where her thrift shop clothes are suddenly vintage and daring. She and John become friends.

Showalter has three great strengths here. First, as we saw in “Hot Wet American Summer” and the underrated “The Baxter,” he is is a master of impeccable casting. Every role, down to the smallest part, is a small gem, deep bench strength that includes Natasha Lyonne as a co-worker, Beth Behrs as the girl John dates, Elisabeth Reaser as an understanding therapist, and Stephen Root as Doris’ impatient but loving brother. Second is his willingness to combine poignancy with humor, grounding and deepening the story. But most important is Field, who is a wonder in a role that has us rooting for her as well as for Doris.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong language and sad and uncomfortable confrontations.

Family discussion: What should Todd and Doris have done when their mother got sick? Why did Doris want to hold on to one ski?

If you like this, try: Some of Fields’ other films like “Norma Rae,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Murphy’s Romance,” and “Soapdish”

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Comedy Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week

Interview: Michael Showalter of “Hello, My Name is Doris”

Posted on March 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

sally-field-doris
Copyright Roadside 2016

Writer/director/actor Michael Showalter has a great eye for talent. The original “Wet Hot American Summer” was a career starting point for Bradley Cooper (who missed his Juilliard graduation to be on the set), David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, and many more performers who went on to starring roles. “The Baxter,” with Showalter as a man destined to have his bride run out on him at the wedding, starred Peter Dinklage, Justin Theroux, Michelle Williams, and Peter Dinklage. In “Hello, My Name is Doris,” his star is not a new talent, but he gave two-time Oscar winner Sally Field a role that gives her a chance to show us that at age 69 she can still astonish and surprise us. She plays the title character, who has spent her life taking care of her mother. As the film opens, at her mother’s funeral, Doris has to begin to figure out what her life will be.

Your casting choices are always impeccable, even in the smallest roles. How you approach casting, or do you just to know everybody?

I weirdly know a lot of people even though I’m not like a social person really at all. But I do know a lot of people or I know people who know people. Sally Field was a total shot in the dark. I certainly don’t know her other than I’m a huge fan of hers and have been for a really long time. I felt that she would be amazing in this part and offered her the role not thinking that she would want to do it but she did want to do it and of course once she is cast the rest is pretty easy. Once you are able to tell other actors that Sally Field is playing the lead role it’s pretty easy to cast the movie after that because all the other actors want to work with her.

when I’m casting usually I do have a couple people in my mind. I watch a lot of movie and I see a lot of TV shows so I kind of know who is out there and I go, “Gosh, if we could get that person it would be amazing. Wendi McLendon-Covey for example who plays the sister-in-law, I always knew she would be so good in this part. I think she’s so funny and interesting and I just always envisioned her and Natasha Lyonne and just people that I know or whose work I like and then you just go and you make them an offer and a lot of times you’d be surprised that people are interested. People want to work.

Doris has an exceptionally eclectic wardrobe in this and it is fun to see how people react to it. How did you create her look?

I live in LA now but have lived in New York for many many many years.  Doris is a New York kind of person that you encounter.  You see people like Doris who are kind of eccentric.  Their clothes are very wild and specific and collected and interesting but they don’t necessarily talk that much, you just see them on the subway or on the bus or walking on the street. I just wanted, I like the idea of a character who have this sort of fashionista quality but it was kind of all cobbled together.  She’s probably been collecting clothes and buying clothes and buying jewelry for years and that’s this character’s armor in a way. She’s lived in a little bit of a fantasy. That’s kind of how she get through her days, by putting on these clothes and becoming different characters the way that you can use clothing to do.

I like clothes a lot. I myself don’t wear interesting clothes but I appreciate clothes, I like costumes and I like fashion and kind of pay attention to it. And so we always knew that her costume and her wardrobe would be a really, really important part of the character. And her hair piece and the cat eyeglasses and wearing two pairs of glasses at once. A lot of that stuff was Sally Field. She really dove into creating the character and the way she looked and the specificity of it and that piece was entirely Sally’s creation. She had a name for it, Beverly, they called the hair piece Beverly. So when we would be shooting she would say someone, “I need you to come get Beverly for me.”

What did she want to know before she agreed to the role?

She read the script first and then took the meeting with me so it was more about me answering some of her questions. She knew I wanted her to do the movie it was about her wanting to know how are you going to balance the comedy and the drama? Wanting to just meet me and see what kind of person I was, did we click? I think wanting to know how we’re going to make this movie on such a low budget. She has never done a movie with such a low budget.
Sally has done huge giant Hollywood movies and has done that for a long time so how are you going to make a movie for no money? How are we going to shoot this movie in such a short amount of time? Like do you know what you’re doing was essentially what you wanted to know and I just tried to be as honest with her as I could and just to say I have faith in myself, I have faith in the other people that are working on the movie and we want to create an environment that is conducive to you doing the work, the best work you can do. Sally Field has three sons. One is a very successful writer, her two older sons are both filmmakers and the youngest son is in film school. And they all to varying degrees were familiar with me and some of the other things I’ve done and I think they kind of recommended me to her and said, “You should do it, he is legit.” And so she agreed to do it. She took a huge risk on me and on the project and she’s just been fantastic obviously in the movie and I love working with her.

And this began as a short film, right?

Yes, the short film was called “Doris, the Intern” and it’s nine minutes long or something like that and is really just a very silly, sweet comedy about an older office worker named Doris who is a little bit like this Doris but not nearly as fleshed out, more just kind of a cookie lady working who becomes romantically infatuated with a much younger intern. I think in the short film he was 19 years old. And nothing happens with them at all. There is no relationship; they don’t really even know each other.

It’s much more kind of from afar and basically the way that movie ends is that she sees that he has a girlfriend and she kind of does something kind of rebellious to make herself feel better about it. It’s a really sweet little movie and I really like the main character and felt that she was really charming and comedic and different and kind of adventurous in a way that was really surprising. And then I kind of envisioned the whole role around that character. And Laura Terruso and I spent a couple of years fleshing it out and created the story adding in all of the elements of the hoarding and the mother and the brother-in-law, the whole hipster culture and the whole idea of the way she dressed being so extreme, really just invented the whole story around her that we could use. But we did keep the spine of the love story that it all kind of hinges on that she had this crush on the younger coworker.

It is a lot of fun to see Doris meet young hipsters who see her very differently from her friends, family, and co-workers.

I think she finds a community of people who believe in personal expression and who are also searching for an identity that fits them. That is so much of what being in your 20’s is about. It’s such a quest for identity and to kind of really define who you are and what kind of person you want to be and you are questioning a lot of those things. And Doris is too. She has been in a world where she has known no acceptance and then she finds all this acceptance in this most unlikely of places. You think she’s going to go to that concert and she’s going to look totally different and everybody’s going to laugh at her and it’s going to be a big disaster and it’s totally the opposite. She fits right in with them and she is immediately accepted and nobody questions her. It just seemed like a kind of a wonderful idea.

I also really loved the Tyne Daly best friend character, so fierce.

These characters are roughly the same age as my parents. Over the course of my life I’ve known a lot of women just like Roz that were friends of my parents, super lefty intellectuals of a sort, very high idealistic who were young people in the late 50s and early 60s who just have a certain kind of way about them. They grew up together on Staten Island all their lives and they have a million stories together.

The movie is an unusual mixture of comedy and drama with some very serious moments.

I just sort of go a little bit by intuition. I like it that it has both. I’m not interested as a director in just doing a comedy are just in a drama. I think life is like that, I think life is both, life is funny and serious at the same times at least that is how I try to approach it and so in terms of a strategy it’s more just kind of that I think the lens I see the world through is the comedy the humor and the sadness live hand-in-hand so I just tried to portray that the best I can.

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