Why is it that little movies about being out of step so often wind up feeling the same? Not long into Michael Showalter's Hello, My Name Is Doris, a comedy about a misfit frump pining for a much younger hunk, the unlikely target of the heroine's affections muses to his friends, "She's weird, but she's a good kind of weird." Can you name an indie comedy of the Sundance era where some variation of that line wouldn't fit? For decades, "good kind of weird" has been the unspoken thesis of precious, life-affirming comic studies of good-hearted muddlers maybe starting to get themselves together.
What's of interest in Doris isn't the story our misfit shuffles through or the lessons that she learns; it's the pleasure of seeing Sally Field fit herself into that misfithood. The script offers occasional laughs and insights, but the film belongs to Field, even if her character is a fussed-over concoction of too many traits, the kind of cocktail whose base liquor gets lost among the splashes of quirk.
The best scenes set an emboldened Doris loose against a jokey burlesque of millennial Brooklyn. The satire is warm, and the joke becomes that, in superficial ways, Doris and her vintage finery fit right in. The drama follows, sometimes with truth in it: In her 60s, she can be their friend, their tchotchke, their mascot, but she probably can't be their lover. That this comes as news to her ensures that this lively, engaging comedy never comes to full life despite Field's exuberance. What are we supposed to get from watching a naif learn a lesson we already know?