Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding Doris

One of my favorite cinematic experiences, one that's increasingly rare, is just rolling up to a movie you know nothing about, purchasing a ticket, and discovering a gem.

Of course, nowadays, I'm not purchasing anything. My AFCA card gets me into movies for free, and in fact, part of the reason I chose Hello, My Name is Doris is because it was available to review on my site.

But if you're not spending money, you're spending time. The opening of Warcraft, Miles Ahead and the namesake for this post, Finding Dory, on Thursday only further complicated things, but even on Wednesday night, I already had a bunch of other movies I "should" have seen instead of Michael Showalter's latest. I only have a certain allotment of time each week to spend at the cinema, and still have to be somewhat careful where I spend it.

So it was especially delightful that this movie has quickly become one of my favorites I've seen this year.

It's the story of a mousy cat lady (if that's not a contradiction in metaphors) who has been living with her elderly mother on Staten Island, caring for her instead of having a life of her own. There's no evidence they actually have/had cats, but she has the outfits and the hoarding mentality of that kind of shut-in. She does venture in to Manhattan every day for work, but the ferry ride it takes to get there is like a metaphor for her psychological removal from the modern world. But her mother dies, and she begins getting pressure from her brother to clean up and ultimately sell the family home. It's around this time that she notices a new attractive co-worker and screws up her courage to try to pursue him -- which she accomplishes by stalking him on social media and crafting a persona that she thinks will appeal to him.

It sounds a bit like the makings for a standard romantic comedy except that the cat lady in this case is nearly 70 years old, and the guy she's pursuing is at least three decades and probably more like four younger than she is. The actual age difference between Sally Field and Max Greenfield is 33 years, but he seems to be playing someone more like in his late twenties, while she's around the age she actually is (a 56-year-old is at one point offered to her as a "younger man"). This essential change in dynamic gives the film something new and interesting, and Showalter writes their scenario and the narrative threads that branch off of it -- like Doris' immersion in the Brooklyn hipster scene -- with an eye both for comedy and for human sensitivity. The whole thing just feels unique within a general framework of the types of things we've seen before, and the performances are great.

The discovery that feels most similar to this, in terms of plunging myself directly into something I knew nothing about (I hadn't even heard of Doris until a few days before I'd seen it), was Miranda July's The Future back in 2011. I wrote about that discovery in this post. As with that movie, I did know the director and a couple stars from Hello, My Name is Doris, but had not seen a trailer, and could only really imagine what the movie might be about from the tagline "She's not ready to act her age." So then I just sat back and let it wash over me.

If you want more of my thoughts on this movie, a link should be up on the right within a day or so of you reading this, if it is not already. And if you've read to this point, you'll already have a lot more information about Doris than I had when I saw it.

But that's unavoidable. Most cinephiles consume enough information about upcoming releases that they aren't truly surprised by anything. And even if they are surprised, telling someone to "just go see it" is rarely a recommendation that can be heeded, without some other enticement as to why. So I didn't mind "spoiling" a little bit of Doris for you.

The point is, it isn't possible to create the same blind viewing experience for each person from the same movies. You just have to be open to such possibilities when they present themselves, and it's that open mindset that I'm actually endorsing today.

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