Hello, My Name is Doris (2016) is a comic look at an older New York woman’s cross-generational crush. As 60-something Doris Miller (Sally Field) develops an obsessive infatuation for 30-something John Fremont (Max Greenfield), she ingratiates herself with his Williamsburg, Brooklyn, crew of young, hip professionals. Doris’s eccentric clothing and love of quirky found objects make her a hit on the Brooklyn scene. The fast intergenerational friendship leads us to ask, do women over 60 and Brooklyn hipsters have the same style?
Director Michael Showalter told ScreenPrism, "I lived in Brooklyn for a long time; my co-writer Laura Terruso also is a young, hip, New York person. So we liked the idea that Doris, who, her clothing obviously is such a big part of her character, finds herself sort of as an accidental celebrity in this hipster, artisanal sub-culture of Williamsburg that is so incredible and so vibrant. We liked the juxtaposition of that, that she's kind of the real article of what they are all in some respects trying to be."
So what are some of Doris’ habits and hobbies that this sub-culture emulates?
Finding Treasure in the Trash
Doris never neglects to take an interesting object off the street. She is the queen of finding new accessories in other people’s trash — early on, we watch her pick up a lamp off the sidewalk. We mark the passage of time by returning to her calendar of cats doing yoga. When she moves out of her cubicle, her co-workers are quick to grab her found treasures, proving that Doris' taste is very much in line with the youth culture. (Natasha Lyonne's character claims the cat yoga calendar.)
As the film goes on, we learn Doris has a problem with hoarding — her home is crowded with objects including a lone snow ski (the other long lost), old takeout containers and a deluge of magazines and books. But Doris' tendency to prize objects others might consider worthless is a key to her sentimental nature. When she steals a pencil out of John's bag, she takes it home and treasures it for the bite marks that prove it has touched his mouth. Some might find this behavior creepy, but it also indicates a deeply romantic character who forms attachment to material things for their association with memories and human connections. For both Doris and her young friends, an object's story adds value rather than reduces its worth.
Sally Field's Doris finds a new gem in Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)
John’s girlfriend (and Doris’ unknowing rival for his heart), Brooklyn (Beth Behrs), is thrilled to learn that Doris likes to knit. She soon invites her new friend to her regular "rooftop knitting club." Today's "maker" culture is famously in love with the pastime, which was once assumed to appeal almost solely to women over a certain age. Knitting, sewing and crocheting have seen a marked resurgence in recent years with events well attended by both younger and older generations. Mainstream hipster personas like Zooey Deschanel's Jess on New Girl (2011 - ) also champion the craft. On New Girl, Jess declares her one rule is "Don't steal my yarn!"
Doris meets John's cool, young girlfriend Brooklyn (Beth Behrs)
Mismatched, Frumpy-Chic "Fresh Vintage" Fashion Sense
When the 13 year-old granddaughter of Doris’ best friend asks her if she has anything neon to wear to the cool "Baby Goya" concert in Williamsburg, Doris pulls it out in spades. Her mix-and-match funky-monkey, all-colors style is so in sync with the Baby Goya crowd, the musician selects her to model for the cover of his new album, which is called "Fresh Vintage." Doris, often seen with two sets of glasses, tends to wear more items of clothing and accessories at once than many of us do in several days combined.
John and Doris bond at the Baby Goya concert in Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)
For Showalter and his team, Doris’ clothing was perhaps the strongest link between her and this younger scene. For both, clothing is a huge source of identity. "A lot of people think of clothes as just a function and wear a basic uniform, but to Doris her clothing is how she communicates her feelings and her moods," Showalter said in the film’s production notes. "There’s a playfulness to the way she dresses. When she goes to the Lower East Side to get a CD by John’s favorite recoding artist, she’s wearing a Sherlock Holmes cape, because she sees it as a secret mission. Whatever she’s doing at any given moment, she needs an outfit that fits it. Getting dressed is like a performance piece for her."
He added, "Her wardrobe is her support network in a lot of ways. In New York City, you often see fashionistas like that. They’re the little wildflowers growing through the cracks of an asphalt sidewalk. She has funneled all of her passion and imagination and curiosity into the way she dresses."
Doris enlists her friend's 13 year-old granddaughter (Isabella Acres) for help joining facebook to spy on her crush in Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)
Showalter and costume designer Rebecca Gregg looked to real-life New York fashion icons like Iris Apfel but wanted Doris to have a less studied, fashion-informed manner. Showalter said in the production notes, "People like that are really walking art projects, but we decided that Doris isn’t that academic. She’s more like a found artist. Her influences come from her youth, but like her home, it has layers piled on afterward. I encouraged Rebecca to make as bold a statement as she could. She and Sally together made big, adventurous choices."
Gregg added, "Her clothes are her best friends."
In the end, Doris worries these young hip people aren’t really her friends—that they’re laughing at her or at best enjoying her merely as the weird old lady in funny clothes, like some kind of "art project." To some extent, she realizes it's true that her new friends can't offer her the kind of deep support that she has in her long-time pal, Roz (Tyne Daly). Despite their shared aesthetic tastes, Doris and John have many years of experience between them and are facing different challenges.
Still, her new friends also genuinely share some of her interests and admire her taste. John notes early on that she is certainly weird, but "good weird." And the connection the movie makes between the self-conscious cool of 20- to 30-something Brooklynites and the unselfconscious style of New Yorkers over 60 shows that fashion, hobbies and lifestyle can be both cyclical and multi-generational. As Showalter told ScreenPrism, there's not as much difference between the old and the young as we like to imagine. "Here is a character who by all accounts should be thinking that her time has run out, and whatever her lot is, that's what it is," Showlater said. "But the message is: it's not too late. It's never too late. It's never too late to start again."
Hello, My Name is Doris is not the first to draw a comparison between hipster and grannie styles, but the film captures just how well Doris' “Fresh Vintage” embodies today’s Williamsburg cool.