Roadside Attractions
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya, d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Grade:  B
Director:  Michael Showalter
Written by: Michael Showalter, Laura Terruso, based on a short film by Laura Terruso
Cast:  Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Beth Behrs, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Stephen Root
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 2/25/16
Opens: March 11, 2016

Some recent self-help books pose this question:  How many people on their deathbed regretted that they could not spend more time in the office?  Presumably nobody, but add this: how many people regretted that they had mothers who were healthy enough to care for themselves and not put a burden on them?  Again, nobody.  In “Hello, My Name is Doris,” Doris Miller (Sally Field) not only spent decades working for the same company as a low level worker and the only one apparently over the age of thirty-five, but spent who knows how many decades taking care of her mother, devoting the best part of her life, in a Staten Island home bursting at the seams with junk?  Field, now sixty-nine years of age in an industry that has thrown actors away long before that turns in an amazing, complex performance as a woman who projects the loneliness of someone who has let life go by and as one who is falsely encouraged by a man way younger than she to fulfill the maxim of a TV motivational speaker.

The speaker, played by Peter Gallagher, urges people to turn the word “impossible” into “I’m possible,” which for a sixty-something woman who is more or less ignored by the hip young people in a New York office means that there is always time to start living and maybe even become an auntie Mame.  Doris is not only a drone during the workday and a long-term care giver for her mother, who had just died; she is being harassed by her brother, Todd (Stephen Root) and Todd’s wife Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey) to chuck out all the junk that had accumulated during her mother’s lifetime and then chuck herself out by selling the house and moving to an apartment.

But things are starting to look up.  John Fremont (Max Greenfield) has been transferred by his company from Malibu to Manhattan as Art Director, and Doris is in love at first sight. She wants shamelessly to date the man, which her best friend Roz (Tyne Daly)  states is impossible, but is nonetheless coached on how to attract John’s attention by Roz’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres) as though the young woman is tutoring the older one on how to work a computer.  She considers that her best chance with John is to go to the young man’s hip places, whether to a party in Williamsburg Brooklyn (where John tries to fix her up with his 50-something uncle who would have been her best bet) or to a rock concert, where the band, impressed by Doris’s zany costume, actually has her pose for the cover on their upcoming album.

Call “Hello, My Name is Doris” the wet dream of a woman who imagines herself not in a May-September romance but more like a September-February one.  She imagines herself in several romantic moments which could not plausibly take place, but on second thought, why not?  Sally Field is such an accomplished performer that at times we in the audience might think she could pull it off.  We’re encouraged, I think, to cheer her on, to tempt John to drop her current hot girlfriend, Brooklyn (Beth Behrs), and she actually succeeds in doing this.  Field does not need fifty outfits to give us in the audience some hope that she can live her teenage years way beyond her time, but while some of us might make sport of her, she is so endearing that, well, what man in the audience would not give his left pinky to date her?  “Doris” was filmed mostly in downtown Los Angeles to stand in for Staten Island, Manhattan, and Williamsburg.

Rated R.  90 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B
Overall – B


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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