Wednesday, March 9, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Loving Sally Field

Stars Sally Field and Max Greenfield at the after party for The Cinema Society 's screening of "Hello, My Name is Doris."
by Liz Smith

NYC Premiere Audience Absolutely Loves Sally Field, Max Greenfield and Tyne Daly in "Hello, My Name is Doris."

made to be changed — or how is truth to be got at?" said Lord Byron.
ON MONDAY night way downtown in Manhattan, a crowd of hip New Yorkers, actors, models and various pretty types descended on the brand new Metrograph Theater for the Cinema Society premiere of director Michael Showalter's new movie, "Hello, My Name is Doris," starring Sally Field, Max Greenfield and Tyne Daly. This is a beautiful spot for movie goers, seating 200. The Metrograph includes a bar, bookstore and a restaurant. They intend to show an eclectic mix of repertory, first-run, international and indie fare.
The Metrograph theater.
The empty one-story warehouse on Ludlow Street before it became the Metrograph.
It's not surprising that Andrew Saffir has chosen this theater for what will surely become one of his favorite places to hold screenings. "I'm a movie nerd," the always be-suited Andrew says. "I love movies, but I also love real movie theaters. I sort of wish the Cineplex's would go away. They won't, but cinema experience is so much better in places like this." Andrew was very proud that "Doris" was inaugurating the Metrograph.
The concession stand.
The packed house.
Later, the movie-loving crowd wandered over to Mr. Purple, a new space at the Hotel Indigo on Orchard Street. The stars of the film were there — Sally, Max, Tyne Daly, Natasha Lyonne, Stephen Root, along with director Showalter, writer Laura Terruso and various producers. Among the celebs slugging down Belvedere martinis and snatching up tiny grilled-cheese sandwiches, were Paul Rudd ... Katie Couric ... Lea DeLaria ... Nico Tortorella ... Sean Young ... Peter Dinklage ... Zachary Quinto ... Scott Gorenstein ... Paul Haggis ... Ann Dexter Jones and others too high cheekboned to mention. Also, Richard Johnson, of the New York Post, trim and handsome. Cindy Adams, the queen of the New York Post was at the theater earlier, perched on a chair near the lobby, taking notes, receiving obeisance, utterly ageless, wry and wisecracking.
Cindy Adams at work.
Those who weren't famous (yet) were at least attractive and interesting. (I don't know where Andrew finds them.) Including a young man named Chase Ian Landow, who looked 17 but is 23, and in real estate. It is his second professional venture. The first was a tech company having something to do with music and just about the only thing I understood was "Lady Gaga." Real estate is interesting but not his life's work — "Onward and upward," said young Chase. Kids, today — they don't let any grass grow under their feet.
Eve Plumb, Josh Charles, Paul Rudd, and Michael Showalter.
Natasha Lyonne. Sean Young.
Laura Terruso, Michael Showalter, Katie Couric, and John Molner.
Tyne Daly.
Max Greenfield, Daniel Crown, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, and Laura Terruso.
AHHHH ... yes. The movie. Okay. "Hello, My Name is Doris" is about a sixtysomething woman (Field) who has lived all of her life with her mother — now recently deceased — in an increasingly cluttered house. She works as an accountant, a leftover from a previous company regime. Doris appears to have only one friend (a superb Tyne Daly.) Her brother and his malicious wife pop in now and then to try to "persuade" Doris to clean up her mess and sell the house. (These two are so loathsome they practically come equipped with moustaches to twirl, in evil fashion.) Doris reads cheesy romance novels. One day, Doris bumps, literally, into a handsome, young co-worker (Max Greenfield) who while yummy to look at, has the brain of a pea. Doris instantly and inexplicably falls for him.
Friends — Doris (Sally Field) and Tyne Daly.
Lovers — Doris and John Fremont (Max Greenfield).
This movie is supposed to be a comedy. Or a dramedy. Or a satire. Or even a total fantasy. I don't know because it seems the director and writer didn't know either. Inconsistencies abound. In "reviewing" movies I have always tried to make it a point not to tell too much, not to be a "spoiler." I'm going to stick to that, but this time, it's difficult. Because I'd like to lay out every wrong-headed aspect of the film, scene by scene, circumstance by circumstance. The lack of sense and cohesion was infuriating. Especially with all the talent on hand.
This is what I will say. Aside from any issues of the plot, "Hello, My Name Is Doris" ultimately fails because of the collaboration between the director and his leading lady; their joint conception for how Doris looks and behaves. Sally Field is got up like Eileen Brennan in "Clue" only much, much worse. She is so ridiculous-looking that in real life it would be impossible for her to hold a job, certainly not at the high-end firm where she is. The character is also devoid of interest, irony, humor — indeed she is often mute with embarrassment or confusion.
The shaky premise of the film might have worked if Doris was merely dowdy and shy, or eccentric and offbeat. But we are expected to believe that her pathetic appearance and manner is suddenly recognized by Max and his coworkers as "cool," and that their acceptance of her encourages Doris to pursue the object of her affection. One of the audience members, Cosmopolitan scribe Sergio Kletnoy insisted to me that the movie was really about the dim cluelessness of "New York hipsters" who are too shallow to recognize that Doris is a sick woman, rather than the amusing eccentric they think she is. Yeah, those inside digs were there, but as I saw it, that wasn't supposed to be the point of the movie.
It's not that Sally Field gives a "bad" performance. In fact, it's really quite good. She gives the wrong performance. But, she gives it with everything she's got, and as we know, the two-time Oscar winner has plenty to give. In fact, there are no bad performances — it's like excellent ingredients in a daunting mystery soup.

It is also — these three terrible words — "a brave performance." Yes, we know what that means. Sally Field allows herself to look awful. There is no vanity. None! The camera searches for and finds every line and crease, every age spot. Sally is too attractive, even now, even in these circumstances, not be appealing, but no concessions to her famous adorableness are really made. Her commitment here is astonishing and deserves respect and applause. I just wish she had revealed herself in a more worthy vehicle.

Now, let me confess openly that my opinion appeared not to be held by most of the audience who laughed (and even cried) through the movie, and gave it a tumultuous ovation. I actually think positive word of mouth might lift "Hello, My Name Is Doris" to some success. (The few reviews I've found on Rotten Tomatoes were all good!)

So, don't take my word, go see it, and tell me how wrong I am. Maybe I'll see it again, and perhaps like Lord Bryon's opening quote, I'll find "truth" in a change of opinion.
P.S. It was good to see Max Greenfield on screen and in the hot flesh, at the party. I interviewed Max way back in 2004, in L.A. when he was on the "Veronica Mars" TV show. The introduction was made by PR legend Liz Rosenberg, who knew his father, or something like that. (Liz had no professional interest in Max, she just thought he was handsome and talented and wanted to do him a favor. So very Liz R., the ultimate friend and nurturer!) I was bowled over by Max and wrote him up. He has gone on to work steadily in a lot of TV ("New Girl" currently) and also the "Veronica Mars" movie in 2014. He looks exactly the same as that afternoon in Hollywood.

I think Max needs to be a big movie star. And despite my not loving his latest, he might well be. His performance in "Hello, My Name is Doris" is sweet, poignant and sexy. As Doris' fantasy man, he's no brain surgeon, but he has other vital qualities.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.