Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) has an infectious, sweet quality to her that makes even her craziest characters sympathetic and interesting. Doris is no exception to that idea. Field creates a slightly batty, but believable woman who has sacrificed her entire life for others and is just discovering who she is and may be.
The impetus for that change is the double whammy of the death of her mother at the top of the film and the introduction of Max Greenfield (The Big Short) into her life. The interaction between the two is fun and, often, painful to watch from the outside. Greefield breaks no ground in his career for this role… it is what you always see him as… but he does it well. There isn’t real chemistry between the two romantically either, but there doesn’t need to be. This is Doris’ world and journey… everyone else is simply a passenger.
Smaller, but important roles and support come from Tyne Daly, Elizabeth Reaser (Young Adult), and, better known only for her voice, Isabella Acres. Each has a moment or two for themselves and for Doris in ways that are, again, just barely believable, but enough so that you’re willing to go along.
While the direction keeps the story moving and restrained to the side of reality, and the script does a lot of the same, it isn’t a brilliant job on either side. The feel of the film is a bit TV and the script takes shortcuts and cheap shots, only barely avoiding losing the audience by veering at the last second from pure cliche or really bad research (particularly around Reaser’s role as shrink).
Despite any weaknesses, this is a sweet film of possibility and life. It doesn’t ask for a lot of your time or energy, and it gives back more than it takes.