From his days in The State to his amazing performance as Coop in Wet Hot American Summer (where he was also a writer) to Stella with Michael Ian Black and David Wain, if it’s got Showalter’s name attached I’ll go out of my way to see it. I even bought his comedy CD Sandwiches & Cats. I’d say that’s dedication. While David Wain seems to be drawn toward more absurdist fare (seriously, that Netflix movie about the National Lampoon sounds ah-mazing) Showalter has always seemed to veer toward the sweet and quirky side of life.
His directorial debut The Baxter was an enjoyable little film, anchored by the boyish charm of Showalter and the adorable sweetness of Michelle Williams. It was a simple movie, and a peek into the off-kilter world Showalter wanted to showcase. It’s been described as a Howard Hawks style comedy of yesteryear, but I’d argue it felt more like a Woody Allen throwback to the days when New York was essentially a character in his films. Based on the 2011 short film Doris & The Intern, Hello, My Name Is Doris expands that worldview all while staying within the confines of Showalter’s New York City.
Sally Field is Doris, a sixty-something (?!) who’s mother just passed away after spending the majority of her life taking care of and living with her in their cluttered home on Staten Island. Her brother (Stephen Root) and sister-in-law (Wendy McLendon-Covey) are pushing for her to sell the family house and start moving on with her life. She works at a marketing company (?) in the city and is very much a fish out of water, being a hold over from “the old days” being kept around to avoid HR and diversity issues (you should see MY office. Oof, we have at least 10 of those). It’s at work where she meet-cutes Max Greenfield’s John, a man thirty years her junior. He’s suave, cute, funny, and basically Max Greenfield so Doris is immediately drawn to this man, and who can blame her? She’s already stolen his pencil as a memento (and to emphasize her hoarding) even before his awkward introductory speech to the office. After a self-help guru presents Doris with the idea that nothing is “impossible” but rather “I’m possible” Doris begins her awkward courting of John.
The interplay between Greenfield and Field (sounds like a punny law firm) is terrific, and really helps sell the absurdity of this potential romance even when Doris gets a bit creepy with her infatuation. She’s weird, but a “good weird” according to John, as the movie shows Doris coming out of her shell thanks to her cyber-stalking skills. Discovering that John’s favorite band is Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters (nay Jack Antonoff), the progressive indie rock band every Brooklynite should love, Doris makes a connection with John as their friendship blossoms.
Doris pushes her friends and family away as she pursues this possible relationship with John, as unlikely as it may seem. But does it work? The story has its ups and downs, and Sally Field proves once again what an amazing actress she is all these years later showing off the many shades of Doris. Greenfield is pretty great too, playing the standard leading man I didn’t realize he could after years of watching him perfect his persona on New Girl.
While some story lines seemed to fall by the wayside or resolved via montage, the final moment of the movie is pitch perfect, completely selling the reality of the fantasy world we’d all like to live in.