The moniker “Lady Macbeth” is a derogatory term affixed to a woman who someone deems to be overly-ambitious and cruel in her determination to succeed. That’s based on the character from the Shakespeare play who urges her husband on to accumulate more and more power, taking out any and all threats to them. She sees his success as hers and pulls the strings.
The new movie Lady Macbeth is not based on that character or that play but the main character is no less determined to succeed. Katherine (Florence Pugh), is a young woman in 19th century England who’s been sold into marriage to Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a man twice her age. As with many such stories, she begins an affair with a younger man who works on the estate. But this affair isn’t enough and she finds herself taking desperate action to get what she wants and take control over her own life.
The first poster shows Pugh in period dress clutching the back of a chair and looking around as if she has some scheme or plan on her mind. A positive quote from an early review is at the top and we’re told below the title that this is based on a source novel. The movie’s festival history is toward the bottom to make it more attractive to moviegoers who are interested in such things.
Another poster took the same basic approach, just this time with a photo of Pugh sitting on a small couch. Her name is given more prominent placement at the very top, showing that there’s more of a focus on her in selling the movie. A variety of positive review quotes appear between her name and the title.
The first trailer starts off by showing Lady Katherine is married to a mean, heartless man who doesn’t care for her dreams or personality at all. While he’s gone she starts an affair with a local farmer who’s nothing like her husband, who’s not thrilled. The lovers take matters into their own hands, which leads to more drama in the small town and in her own home, but she remains in control of the situation at all times.
It’s great, selling a psychological thriller with a story that’s both original and recognizable. Pugh looks fantastic as the woman who decides she will not be subject to anyone else’s idea of what her fate should be and goes after what she wants. The trailer hints at plot twists that should be expected in a movie like this but it looks very enjoyable.
Online and Social
The official website opens by playing the official trailer, which is certainly worth watching again. “Trailer” is actually the first item on the content menu at the top. If you go back to “Home” you can see some full screen video featuring footage from that trailer along with the same image that’s on the poster of Katherine sitting on the couch. A series of positive quotes from early reviews rotates at the top. Farther down the page you can “Save to calendar” a reminder of when tickets are on sale in your area.
The only other content on the site aside from a link to the movie’s Facebook profile, is “Synopsis.” That offers a pretty short recap of the story along with the names of those involved.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve seen or am aware of here. Roadside probably did some localized advertising in the initial cities it’s playing in but that’s likely about it.
Media and Publicity
Positive buzz from a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival got things off on a good note, particularly for Pugh as her performance was pegged as being impressive. It was soon picked up by Roadside Attractions. It was later announced the movie would also head to Sundance 2017 before its eventual release.
Pugh’s performance was singled out for effusive praise and called the single best reason to see the movie. She talked in that interview about the role and how she approached while director William Oldroyd about what made her right for the part.
This is the second movie in about a month to emphasize the idea of women retaking their agency in its marketing, the first being The Beguiled last month. It shows just enough of Katherine’s motivations and actions to make it clear she’s had enough of the situation she’s been put into and is taking matters into her own hands, whatever that might entail. She will no longer be anyone’s possession but will follow her passions.
The main issue is that we’ve seen this movie before. There are countless stories in the last 10 years or so about women of the 18th or 19th century who take a lover after finding themselves married to cold or cruel men out of necessity or familial political mechanizations. There’s even one that’s supposed to come out later this year, assuming The Weinstein Co. eventually remembers it owns Tulip Fever. That’s why, I think, the press has focused so much on Pugh’s performance, because it has the potential to be the differentiating factor from those other stories and make Lady Macbeth worth seeing.