Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Recasting 2015: "Hello, My Name is Doris"

I can remember leading up to Oscar season in 2015, Sally Field was an early awards contender for her performance in Hello, My Name is Doris. It seemed the type of role and performance that would, at the very least, score her a Golden Globe nomination. I still scratch my head a bit when I look back and think about how the best Field was able to manage was a Critics' Choice nomination. 

Meryl might have fared better. I say that with all due respect to Field. It was a wonderful performance and deserved more recognition, in my opinion. Ultimately, and unfortunately, I just don't think the movie was seen by enough people. Field portrays Doris Miller, a 60-something woman from Staten Island who works in a mid-level office job. She's lived with her recently passed mother her whole life, and Doris finds herself alone in a home packed to the gills with decades of hoarded memories. When a handsome young co-worker, John, (Max Greenfield) sparks an infatuation in Doris, she finds the resolve--with a little influence from a lame self-help guru and a friend's teenage granddaughter--to make a play for him. 


The film is funny and awkward and touching all at once. I watched it again this weekend, and for whatever reason I had sort of forgotten the stuff about Doris being a hoarder. It's a fascinating and often tragic compulsion for many. I'm not a psychotherapist, but from what I understand, it's typically observed in individuals who have other diagnosable disorders. Doris is what many people would call eccentric; she dresses sort of quirky, has a few behavioral idiosyncrasies, and is so outdated in her sense of the world that she seems retro hip to John's very "current" friends. She's likely got depression--in part due to a broken engagement she endured at a young age to stay with her mother, and the life deferred in caring for her til the end. There are a lot of interesting layers Meryl would've been able to unfold in all that. And it's a character Streep has definitely not played before. I found it interesting that in an interview, Sally Field summed up the story as "a coming of age, of a person of age." Well put. 

Quick sidebar: One of the more enjoyable aspects of the film for me are the scenes with the great Tyne Daly, who plays Doris's close friend, Roz. Daly gets some of the funnier one-liners. And Roz's devotion to her friend, despite seeing her going down a path that seems destined to only hurt her, provides some welcome tender moments. 

Field, as mentioned, earned terrific reviews. The fact that the film holds an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes makes it even more perplexing that she wasn't able to garner more traction for awards attention. On its meager budget of only $1 million (a total that probably would've grown by 5-10 times had Streep been involved), the film took in around $14 million at the box office. Not exactly peanuts considering its low profile. I think it would've been a great summer release for Meryl, similar to Julie & Julia, Hope Springs, Ricki and the Flash, and Florence Foster Jenkins


  1. This is another reminder that sometimes actors don't get nominated for their best work. Doris is a far more interesting role than Mary Lincoln.

  2. Wonderful, I forgot all about this movie and was interested in it at the time. Definitely lots to explore here in a great little movie.

    For 2016 my pick will be the role of linguist played by Amy Adams in "Arrival", a thought-provoking sci-fi drama. This would be a new type of film for Meryl as she hasn't tackled this area much.

  3. An intriguing choice. I have never heard of this film... probably didn't get released in Australia.