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'Hello, My Name is Doris': Sally Field as older woman falling for a younger man

There are so many moments in Hello, My Name is Doris where I sat thinking, "Why don't I have the pleasure of watching Sally Field do this all the time? Why isn't Sally Field in a movie every year where she shows that she can be both affable and starkly real?"

Sally Field is a woman starting out on her own late in life and enamored of a younger man in 'Hello, My Name is Doris.'
Sally Field is a woman starting out on her own late in life and enamored of a younger man in 'Hello, My Name is Doris.'Read moreSEACIA PAVAO / Roadside Attractions

There are so many moments in Hello, My Name is Doris where I sat thinking, "Why don't I have the pleasure of watching Sally Field do this all the time? Why isn't Sally Field in a movie every year where she shows that she can be both affable and starkly real?"

But, hey, this year, Field has Doris.

Directed by comedian Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer), Hello, My Name is Doris finds Field under an eccentric facade of big hair, cat's-eye glasses, and bright lipstick. Her shy Doris is a woman in her 60s who has never lived, in part because of circumstance and in part by her own design. She has been cloistered in her Staten Island home with her hoarder mother, who dies at the beginning of the film.

Doris soon discovers a certain vitality when she is pressed up in an elevator against her new coworker, young John (New Girl's Max Greenfield), whose smile is so affecting that it's no wonder she falls for him. She employs the granddaughter (Isabella Acres) of her friend (Tyne Daly) to teach her some light online stalking tricks and starts to insinuate herself into his life.

An actress less adept than Field would make Doris a woman to be pitied. She's in love with a younger man who sees her more as a crazy aunt than a potential love interest. She slips into ridiculous daydreams in which John hungrily pursues her. Doris has picked up the same hoarding tendencies as her mother.

And we're supposed to laugh at Doris. She's ridiculous, and Showalter makes sure to overplay her issues so there's no ambiguity about that. But Field makes her feel so real and human. She's not some crazy shut-in. She has friends who love her - Daly is perfectly funny - and with justification. There are a lot of reasons to pity Doris, but a few to root for her as well.

There's a scene where, after a night of partying (yes, partying - as it turns out, hipsters love her), Doris explains to John the life she could have led. She tells of a past love with deep fondness and nostalgia, but chokes up when she describes him. It's then that we learn why she has fallen for John in the first place.

She's not some aroused sitcom grandma looking for a date.

After a certain age, actresses are no longer allowed to be sexual or lustful on screen, unless it's played for laughs. This is especially so when it comes to younger men. But Field grounds Doris' passions in a way that invites respect. Her love for John is about a life only half lived.

Hello, My Name is Doris isn't perfect. A running joke about hipster clichés is tiresome, and the movie's plot threads are uneven. But watching Field work her magic is so delightful. It's time we give this kid some more work.

meichel@phillynews.com

215-854-5909

@mollyeichel

Hello, My Name Is Doris
Directed by Michael Showalter.
With Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Tyne Daly, Stephen Root, and Wendi McLendon-Covey.
Distributed by Roadside Attractions.
Run time: 95 mins.
Parent's guide: R (language).
Playing at: Ritz Five.