Doris Miller and Hope Annabelle Greggory are polar opposites in demeanor yet their neuroses are practically the same.
Each wants desperately to be loved, turning off people while trying to make it happen. Doris is too accommodating; Hope's too abrasive. The same can be said for the movies about them.
Hello, My Name Is Doris and The Bronze are cut from entirely different indie comedy cloth, each hit-and-miss funny. The former is a sweetly broad comedy just a few profanities away from safe family consumption. The latter is nasty as it wants to be, which is very.
Doris is played by two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field, so energetically pathetic that it appears she's aiming for a third. That won't happen, but once in a while Field offers a performance reminding us she's still formidable and we really do like her. This is that sort of role.
Costuming spells out Doris' personality: dowdy fashions and cat eyeglasses at first, misbegotten concepts of cool later. She is a hoarder, like her mother who just died, leaving her even more frazzled. Doris doesn't seem like a person working in a Manhattan skyscraper with millennials, but she does for the script's purpose.
One day Doris gets squeezed on an elevator beside the new office cutie John Fremont (Max Greenfield), whose polite attention is thoroughly misread. Doris crushes on John big time, asking a self-help charlatan (Peter Gallagher) for advice in pursuing a date and creating a fake Facebook profile for meek stalking.
Her delusion is intended for our amusement, but director/co-writer Michael Showalter regularly undercuts his smartest humor with serious swerves and sitcom twists, including too many daydream fake-outs. Field's eager-to-please performance makes his shovelfuls of sugar go down easier.
On the other hand, The Bronze makes viewers take their medicine without any sweetening. Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) co-wrote and stars as Hope, the longtime pride of Amherst, Ohio, after winning a bronze medal at the world gymnastics championships, with Kerri Strug-like courage. Yet she definitely isn't America's sweetheart.
Hope is a gutter-talking misanthrope in patriotic gymwear, with an egregious sense of entitlement and substance abuse issues. The more she's offered, the more she angrily demands, in a high-pitched voice that is usually half of the joke. It's a very funny character needing more arc than Rauch's script offers or a shorter movie.
The Bronze sets up Hope to coach rising gymnast Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson), only in order to claim a hefty inheritance from her former, despised coach. Hope doesn't wish Maggie to succeed because that would overshadow her legacy. Nothing is too dirty or underhanded for her or the movie, including a gymnastic sex scene earning 5.8 on the raunch scale.
Doris would be appalled by Hope's antics. Hope would make an indecent suggestion of where Doris could place those feelings. You couldn't safely put these characters in the same room, but the same movie might not be a bad idea.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.