Doris, you’re a true original.
So, this movie works like a charm because of a brilliant lead performance by Sally Field. As Doris, a sixty-something office drone that decides to pursue her new twenty-something office mate romantically, Field gives one of her all-time great performances. It’s maybe my favorite of her performances to be perfectly honest. Field nails the dramatic moments here to perfection, but it’s her impeccable comedy bits that you won’t soon forget. The incredible expressive control Field has is nothing short of brilliant; this movie had me laughing out loud over and over again. The backdrop to Field’s performance, because that’s what the rest of this movie is, is surprisingly strong; this is the kind of film where you might expect Field’s performance to be the only good thing about it. But the writing here is pretty strong; there are a lot of clever, witty lines and the film is also reassuringly character based and, in its own off-beat way, a thoughtful exploration of inter-generational friendships and the desire for relevance in an ever-changing world. The supporting cast is perfect right down to the ground. Tyne Daly is as good as she’s ever been as a friend of Doris. Max Greenfield is just the right mix of awkward youth and handsome charm as the object of Doris’ affection. Throw in Rich Sommer, Kumail Nanjiani, Beth Behrs, Natasha Lyonne and Stephen Root and you have a great supporting cast. Peter Gallagher gets off an absolutely hilarious cameo as a vacuous self-help guru who can’t help but point out that if you change the way you look at “impossible” it could easily become “I’m possible.” Oh, boy. The film’s narrative of Doris’ journey back to life after her mother’s death could easily become clichéd or sentimental, but the biting humor won’t let that happen. The film lampoon’s Doris even as it has affection for her; it does the same with the hipster culture of the young characters here and with the dysfunctional dynamic of Doris’ family. It’s a silly, silly film at time, incredibly hilarious, funny right down to the bone. But it’s never just mockery; at the end of the day, this movie cares about Doris and her friends and family and in today’s climate of increasingly bitter and/or mean-spirited comedies, this one is like a breath of fresh air. It’s a movie that just really fires on all cylinders, the comedic, the dramatic, the pragmatic and the optimistic. Sally Field’s central performance can’t be overestimated in the question of why this movie works so well, but we’ve all seen a poorly written film resting entirely on the shoulders of a central performance and that usually fails, so kudos to Showalter’s witty script and a wonderful supporting cast for giving that performance a good setting to shine in. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Sally Field’s brilliant comic performance in this hilarious comedy is perhaps her best work to date, but a witty script and a bevy of great supporting performers are appreciated as well. 4 stars.