Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hello, My Name is TERRIFIC! What a movie Michael Showalter & Sally Field have given us.

Wow. Who knew? With the debut of her latest film, Sally Field is at last destined to understand that, yes, we like her. HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS is every bit as good as you've heard from most of our critics and undoubtedly, too, from your friends who've seen it and are getting that word-of-mouth rolling. But is it one of those "feel-good" movies that us senior citizen regularly flock to? Well, yes and no. This is a would-be love story about the relationship between a younger man and a much-older woman, much of which goes on in the older woman's head. Is that relationship inappropriate? Of course. But then, older men have been succeeding (on film, at least) with much younger women practically since movies were born. So why not the other way around? Because we still make (or at least fake) obeisance to our patriarchal society, for one thing.

For another, the lead character here, as played by Ms Field, is such a delightful dingbat that we simply can't but love her despite, maybe even because of, her crazy romantic notion. As brought to fine life by the actress and the film's smart director and co-writer, Michael Showalter (shown at right), who collaborated on the screenplay with Laura Terruso (inspired, perhaps, by Ms Terruso's short film Doris & the Intern), Hello, My Name Is Doris bounces along so buoyantly with such good humor that we follow it wherever it goes. And it goes in a lot of surprising, oddball directions that are somehow both believable and germane.

One of the lovely things about this movie is that it treats its younger generation (some of whom are shown above and below) with the same interest and respect that it gives to its seniors. The kids may be younger and less wise (in some ways) but they are generally a decent lot, willing to listen and consider stuff that might be a bit foreign to their current world.

Mr. Showalter (and his movie) understands something that humanity in general often forgets: how a thing -- a costume, an attitude, an odd, offhand remark -- that might seem ridiculous in one context can fit quite beautifully into a different one. This kind of moment happens often enough throughout the movie that, soon, we begin to observe a lot of things from a different perspective.

Consequently Hello, My Name Is Doris works as comedy, character study, even love story (of sorts), as it charts its path of growth and change, This makes the movie more than a little unusual in our current times of beat-your-audience-into-submission blockbusters, as well as a lot of independent film that often seem cut from unusually similar cloth. Doris--the character and the film--is an original.

If Ms Field is not acknowledged come next year's awards time, this will be a major shame. The Academy tends not to give comedy its due, but the actress is so good in every respect that I think it will be difficult not to recognize her gift to us. This is rich, layered performance that keeps us amused, moved, surprised and all the rest -- with every moment completely believable. (Fields is often able to make us laugh, cringe and empathize simultaneously.)

As we move delightedly along, the worry does arise: How will the filmmaker bring all this to conclusion and fruition? He manages it with a surprise that sends us out of the theater questioning, yes, but also considering the possibilities.

Showalter's ensemble cast, though with much less screen time than Fields, manages to hold its own. Primary to the plot is Max Greenfield as the love object, John (shown above, right, with his own love object, played very nicely by Beth Behrs).

Also along for the ride are the fine Tyne Daley (above, center), with Peter Gallagher (shown back view) as a savvy self-help guru. Perhaps the dearest performance comes from the always-wonderful Elizabeth Reaser as a kindly, intelligent therapist dedicated to helping those who "hoard."

The movie has an near-knockabout quality that Mr. Showalter's films often possess. This may make it appear too easy and offhand to merit real criticism. Bullshit. The guy has a gift, and just because it seems easy does not mean it isn't terrific work.

Hello, My Name Is Doris -- from Roadside Attractions and running a just about perfect 90 minutes -- after debuting in our culture capitals last week, opened yesterday here in South Florida, where many of its screenings are already sold out. Book early, seniors. And the rest of you younger audiences, take note: You'll have a much better at this film that you expect! The movie is now showing at Miami's AMC Aventura Mall 24 and Regal's South Beach 18; in Fort Lauderdale at the Cinema Paradiso; in Boca Raton at the Cinemark Palace 20Regal Shadowood, the Living Room Theaters; at the Movies of Delray 5; in Palm Beach Gardens at Cobb Downtown at the Gardens; in Orlando at the Winter Park Village 20; in Tampa at Veterans Expressway 24; in Ft. Myers at the Regal Bell Tower 20; and Naples' Silverspot 12 Cinemas at Mercato.

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