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Hello, My Name Is Doris: Film Review

By Thegenaboveme @TheGenAboveMe

Hello, My Name Is Doris: Film Review

Released 1 April 2016.

After watching Sally Field and Max Greenfield during their press junket address questions posed to them about this film, I have concluded that entertainment journalists failed to scratch the surface of Hello, My Name Is Doris (2016).
Yes, this is a movie that plays up the comedy about a mature woman who becomes increasingly infatuated with a man about three decades younger than she.  Yes, viewers want to talk about the kissing scenes.
After watching ten interviews that never got past the lead actors' 34 year age difference, I was frustrated by the lack of discussion about the film's themes.
Hello, My Name Is Doris is more than a comedy about a woman who fails to read social cues.  For me, it was an allegory about breaking free from the safety of a comfortable routine and discovering that growth and opportunity can happen despite limits imposed by others and limits imposed by self.
Like Macon (played by William Hurt) in The Accidental Tourist (1988), Doris has created a buffer between herself and the world by keeping to a strict routine.  Her reasons differ from Macon's but are also tied to a losses from the past.
In an effort to cope with her losses, Doris lives in the past.
She still lives in her mother's home, she still dresses in fashions from earlier decades, she keeps company primarily with one woman she's known from childhood, she still cowers under her relatives' diminished view of her abilities and worth, and she takes the same ferry to the same building to the same job she's held for years.
Then a new employee lights a spark in Doris.  John Freemont (played by Max Greenfield) arrives at the office first interacts with Doris briefly in the elevator. He looks her in the eye and treats her as a person with possibility.  This serves as a catalyst for change in Doris.
When younger, hipper coworkers describe Doris as weird, John challenges them to see Doris in a positive light: "Weird. But in a good way."  For several scenes, we watch John praise Doris for her style, creativity and personal expression.  Doris starts to embrace change so much that she bellows at long-widowed Roz (played by Tyne Daily), "Get over it!"  Projection much?
This evolution from sticking to a routine to embracing change reminds me of the way Macon from The Accidental Tourist gets outside of his rut when he meets the impulsive dog groomer, Muriel (played by Geena Davis).   But the parallels stop soon after these relationships form. Macon and Muriel eventually enter a mutually agreed upon romance.  Doris and John....well, watch the film.
This is where the movie's mood really changed for me.  The allegory that encourages late-life growth suddenly transforms into a cautionary tale about knowing your place in society.  True, I was rooting a big for the film to transcend stereotypes of aging in ways similar to Harold & Maude (1971), but it didn't quite cast off social conventions about dating within your socially accepted age bracket.
So what did the screenwriter / director / actors hope we learn about the possibilities available in late life?   Share your views in the comments.

Related:
Films about Aging.
Movies about Love and Sex for People 50+


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