It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
For those of us who really liked—nay, worshipped and adored—Sally Field even before she won a single Oscar, her presence in the modestly conceived but emotionally brimming “Hello, My Name is Doris” is like a beacon of beckoning human warmth just waiting to be cherished.
The 69-year-old actress and former TV “Gidget” not only gets to prove that her superb comedic skills have gotten none the rustier since she was last given a worthy arena to display them. But the fact that Field is doing so in her first leading role in 20 years is on the same level of a cinematic event as Lily Tomlin’s hardcore domination of “Grandma” or Blythe Danner's delicate command of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
It’s not that much of an exaggeration to say that her Doris—a 60-ish, never-wed office drone whose sheltered life spent on Staten Island with a fat, lazy cat, a demanding invalid mother and decades of hoarded clutter—is a somewhat spikier but no less sweeter invention in the mode of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. She even dresses the part in what used to be Salvation Army toss-offs but have since been reclaimed in this age of shabby-chic as vintage wear. We laugh at her foibles, applaud her small victories, agonize over her questionable choices, share her growth pains and allow her to tug on our heartstrings. In a society that too often devalues its older citizenry, Doris’ arrival is as welcome as the first crocus of spring.
If this low-budget indie directed by Michael Showalter, who shares writing credit with Laura Terruso, is somewhat shakier in its plotting than Field is with her choices onscreen, it matters little considering that basically she is the movie. Not that there aren’t a parade of talented younger faces in the cast, most likely eager to share space with the film’s star, including Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”), Rich Sommer (“Mad Men”), Natasha Lyonne (“Orange is the New Black”) and Beth Behrs (“2 Broke Girls”).