Michael Showalter’s latest, Hello, My Name Is Doris, spins a comfy yarn about a loopy old accountant (Sally Field) who loses her mother, falls for a young creative director at work, submerges herself in Brooklyn’s hipster culture, and renews her sense of self all in the space of 95 minutes of carefully telegraphed emotional revelations and well-timed crests and falls. With a rainbow-inflected wardrobe seemingly handed down from MADtv’s Lorraine, Doris is a fantastically out-of-touch ditz whose emotional baggage is symbolized by her hording habit and whose every action is founded on the unfunny truism that old folks say and do the darnedest things.
When John Fremont (Max Greenfield) joins Doris’s agency, she’s instantly smitten. Running on endorphins after a speech from a smug self-help guru (Peter Gallagher), and fueled by the aid of her good friend’s nominally with-it granddaughter (Isabella Acres), she proceeds to study up on John’s Facebook account and feign a more youthful sensibility around him than her appearance would suggest. What results is a string of situational comic bits mined from the generational and cultural gaps that also provided the thematic foundation for the stale While We’re Young. During an after-party for a concert given by a Depeche Mode knockoff, Doris’s fuddy-duddy language and critically uncool neon uniform is condescendingly rebranded as a show of ironic hipness by the brain-clouded millennials in the room. Throughout, one is compelled to cringe as she, for example, rattles off about a gimmicky new gastropub in town or lavishes attention on John around the office.
Despite some grace notes, such as Kyle Mooney’s hilarious turn as a mealy-mouthed photographer, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for jokes built so unapologetically around the spectacle of a character’s daffiness. Field’s efforts to convince are thwarted continually by scenarios that make Doris a walking gag, and it’s not until a late-stage reality check that the script nods to the bruised psychology influencing her artificial awakening. Still, what’s most palpably and regrettably missing is the sort of self-consciously absurd riffing that powered David Wain’s They Came Together, which Showalter co-wrote. Apparently content on his own to trade that film’s mischievous genre deconstructionism for cheap-shot indie quirk, Showalter has yet to create something borne from the man-child gawkiness that made his stoogey character on Stella so indelible.