Screen Savor: Hello, Look At Us

Written by Gregg Shapiro

Co-writer/director Michael Showalter’s Hello, My Name Is Doris (Roadside Attractions), based on Laura Terruso’s Doris & the Intern short, is that rare Sally Field movie in which the two-time Oscar-winning actress gets to bring her full-range of acting skills to the fore. Field calls on her comedic chops from Soapdish and Mrs. Doubtfire and combines them with her proven dramatic abilities from Sybil through Steel Magnolias for a performance that is as multi-layered as it is admirable.

As the film opens, spinster Doris (Sally Field) attends her mother’s funeral. Her insensitive brother Todd (Stephen Root) and even more tactless sister-in-law Cynthia (Wendi McLendon-Covey) want Doris to move out of the Staten Island home she has lived in all her life, and in which she cared for her mother at the end of her life. The house, a hoarder’s paradise, is a sticking point with the siblings. So much so that Todd insists that Doris meets regularly with a therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) who specializes in hoarding.

Of course, Doris sees nothing wrong with the house and doesn’t want to move. She works as a bookkeeper at a fashion firm in Manhattan and is one of the holdovers from the early days of the company. Oddly enough, her hoarding and eccentric personal style, which is just this side of Little Edie from Grey Gardens, has kept her in the loop enough that her vintage skirts, blouses and ensembles are chic again.

Doris’ mundane life, which includes attending lectures and playing cards with pals Roz (Tyne Daly) and Val (Caroline Aaron), is turned upside down by the arrival of model-handsome John (Max Greenfield) at her office. Suddenly, Doris’ over-active imagination comes out of hibernation and fills her days with outrageous fantasies. Unfortunately, the sheltered Doris begins to have trouble separating fantasy from reality.

This character flaw leads to some hilarious situations, including Doris attending a concert by EDM act Baby Goya (led by Jack Antonoff) and being recruited as an album cover model, attending an LGBT knitting circle with John’s girlfriend Brooklyn (Two Broke Girls’ Beth Behrs) and seeking loving advice from Roz’s teenage granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres). However, it also results in several scenes of high drama and conflict, such as a massive blowout between Doris and Roz, an embarrassing Thanksgiving situation and a massive meltdown during an intervention.

One of the first movies to appeal to senior citizens and hipsters, as well as queer folks, in equal measure, you can’t go wrong by saying hello to Hello, My Name Is Doris.

Doc filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum (A Dog’s Life) knows just how to tug at our heartstrings and continues to do so with her latest feature Look At Us Now, Mother! (Kirschenbaum Productions). A story about forgiveness that Kirschenbaum was “driven to tell” before time runs out, the doc is technically an intimate portrait of a mother/daughter relationship. However, there are numerous elements of the film that are sure to resonate with queer viewers, regardless of Kirschenbaum being straight.

Gayle and her mother Mildred have never gotten along, never agreed on anything. The youngest of three, Gayle was the only daughter. Beginning fairly early, Mildred was critical of Gayle. As she grew older, Gayle was attacked by Mildred about her nose, her hair, her clothing and makeup. Gayle’s brother Irwin recalls going off on Mildred for the way she treated her daughter.

Alternately described as “a piece of work,” “the life of the party,” “effervescent,” “outspoken and politically incorrect” and someone who should be “muzzled,” Mildred’s difficult personality could be traced to her own painful childhood which included a depressed and suicidal father, as well as the death of a younger sister. When asked about her childhood, her marriage and the way she treated her children, Mildred often responds by saying “I don’t remember.” Whether or not she does is another matter altogether.

Kirschenbaum does a commendable job of painting her mother in the most flattering light possible. She also deserves to be applauded for not giving up on her quest for some sort of reconciliation with Mildred. There is also an even balance between sadness (Gayle’s father’s stroke and passing, the death of Gayle’s beloved dog Chelsea) and humor (the Craigslist ad placed by Gayle and Mildred, the trip the two took to India), all done in an effort by the filmmaker to better understand and come to terms with her mother.