Built from a 2011 "Funny or Die" short by Laura Terruso about a lonely older woman smitten with a hot young male intern at her office, "Hello, My Name Is Doris" keeps the basic concept but adds some crucial depth, investing the lead character with enough shading that we're allowed to sympathize with her instead of simply letting her become the butt of the joke. Directed by Michael Showalter ("Wet Hot American Summer") and co-written by Terruso, "Doris" also benefits from the casting of a wonderful Sally Field as the 60-something office drone.
As the film opens, Doris is feeling adrift after the death of her mother, whom Doris lived with and cared for all her life. After years of never allowing herself a life of her own, she's lost and lonely. But when John (a charming Max Greenfield), the new art director for the company where Doris works, shows her some basic kindness, Doris dares to entertain the possibility of the kind of romantic relationship she's never thought possible. Soon she's throwing herself into learning everything she can about her new crush and putting herself out into the world for the first time.
The mix of heartfelt sentiment with Showalter's brand of goofy humor doesn't always mesh well together: Showalter and Terruso's script occasionally overdoes it on the quirk, especially when poking fun at the hipster culture that Doris immerses herself. The film finds room in these scenes for a number of small roles for a lot of very funny people, like Tyne Daly, Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey, KumailNanjiani, and Kyle Mooney. But the script also saddles its main character with a plotline about her hoarding tendencies, which sometimes threatens to tip the film over into slightly darker territory, and at times it becomes difficult to discern whether the filmmakers want us to believe Doris' problems might actually be the result of mentally illness.
But for the most part, "Hello, My Name Is Doris" remains an unassumingly sweet-natured character study bolstered by Field's fantastic lead performance. Yes, we're sometimes invited to laugh and cringe at Doris' often clumsy attempts at socializing and flirting, but Showalter and Terruso take the desires that guide her into those ridiculous situations seriously -- it's a rare thing to find a movie that's willing to admit adults over 60 even have sex drives -- so we truly care about Doris, and find ourselves wanting to see her find happiness.