Dustin Hoffman is the family patriarch Harold Meyerowitz in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), the new movie from writer/director Noah Baumbach. Harold is a well-known New York City artist whose career is being celebrated at an upcoming event.
That brings together Harold’s grown children Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), Danny (Adam Sandler) and Matthew (Ben Stiller). Each has their own issues, some of which they trace back to being rooted in their father’s upbringing and the imposing shadow he cast over their lives. As usual, such gatherings are mixed with emotion and chaos as everyone deals with whatever baggage they’re carrying.
The primary poster Netflix created shows Harold in two separate pictures, each accompanied by just one of his boys. He’s walking with Danny in the one at the top and with Matthew in the one below the title. That conveys at least a little about the story we’ll be watching, but the overall vibe is similar to that of an indie drama from Miramax circa 1994.
Three more posters were released, each showing Harold with a different character. In one he’s sitting at dinner with Maureen while the other two are just expanded versions of the photos shown on the primary one-sheet.
The first trailer establishes this as an ensemble dramatic comedy, focused on Danny playing piano and having a laugh with his dad. Around that are short other clips from the film showing the rest of the family and including a number of quotes from critics who saw early screenings. It’s clear this is a loving but dysfunctional family we’re watching, though.
The second trailer is much more focused on the story. Matthew is trying (unsuccessfully) to impress his dad while the two are out for a meal. Then we hear Danny talking about how he never really spent time with his dad when he was a kid. Those two scenes establish the family dynamic, along with someone’s surprise that Harold has two sons. Other hijinks, hilarity and family pathos follow as we find out more about how all these characters relate to each other.
The idea here is to sell the movie as family comedy/drama, that much is clear. But it never actually digs into what it is that has everyone coming together or what the motivating plot elements are. So we see characters and get a sense of their actions, but we don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just obviously the approach Netflix is taking in selling the movie.
Online and Social
No web presence here, as usual for Netflix. Some support was offered on brand social media channels but no distinct profiles were created for the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There were a few paid social posts around the time the trailer premiered but that’s about it unless there are loads of banner ads across the web I haven’t seen.
Media and Publicity
The first real news about the movie came when it was announced it had been picked up by Netflix. The movie was one of the handful that had its premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Prior to that Hoffman and Baumbach interviewed each other at the Tribeca Film Festival about the genesis of the project, how they worked together and more.
A short time later some first-look stills were released. While at Cannes Baumbach talked about how he made the movie for the big screen but also loved working with Netflix to help get the movie out there. And Sandler, whose performance was praised by many as his best in a long, long time, talked about the pressure of working on a picture like this and his desire to not let anyone down. Later on it was announced as one of the films that would screen at the New York Film Festival.
The part Stiller plays was, according to this story, written by Baumbach specifically for him after working with the actor on two previous films. The actor and director talked there about their senses of humor and more as well. Baumbach kept talking about the inspiration behind the story, the family dynamic he was hoping to capture and more.
Shortly before release Netflix announced it would give the movie a limited, awards-qualifying theatrical run in select cities.
Hoffman and Baumbach talked jointly about how the director, through Sandler and Stiller, persuaded the actor to finally join the production, the comedy found in the relationships portrayed in the story and more.
We’re no stranger to stories of the privileged but angsty lives of New York creatives. That’s been the basis for countless movies, a trend I’ve called out as problematic a few times in the past. So the movie being sold here doesn’t appear to be breaking any new ground on that front and is easy to dismiss by anyone who’d like to see a bit more racial and socioeconomic representation on screen.
So how does the campaign try to work around that sizable roadblock?
First, it focuses much of its attention on Sandler, who is turning in a much more dramatic performance than he usually does here. Sandler often appears to be sleepwalking through the comedies he makes, putting the minimum viable effort into the work and sometimes even appearing to be annoyed he has to be there in the first place.
Second, it keeps reinforcing the connection all the characters have to Hoffman’s Harold. Everything is centered there, both the backstory and the current story. While I still feel some motivation would have been nice to offer in the campaign, the fact that we’re constantly reminded of how everyone is relating to their father and his influence is a smart move.
Add in appeals to fans of Baumbach’s previous work and you have a decent campaign that’s surprisingly full-throated for a Netflix original release.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.