John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play the titular pair in the new movie The Sisters Brothers. Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) are a couple of assassins in the 1850s with a reputation for efficiency, cruelty and success, they find themselves pursued across Arizona by Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has a grudge to settle with the brothers.
Along the way Eli and Charlie deal with not only with the consequences of their actions but also Eli’s changed perspective on what they do and how long they can do it. So they have crises both personal and professional to surmount, including simply staying alive.
The shape of a skull wafts up to the sky from the dust kicked up by the brother’s horses on the poster, letting everyone know that death follows them on their journeys. The copy at the bottom hits that same point: “Make a killing. Make a living.”
Eli and Charlie are seen more clearly on the theatrical poster, standing side by side and looking rough from the life they lead. “Brothers by blood. Sisters by name.” is the copy at the top of the one-sheet.
As we see in the trailer, the two brothers are a pair of hired guns just trying to make a living in the Old West. Eli is looking for a way out of their violent life and dreams of opening a small store and setting down but Charlie seems to think this is all he knows how to do. They’re on the trail of a prospector/chemist who may have discovered a new way to pan for gold. The “why” of that isn’t made clear, just that Eli is hoping this will be their last outing.
It’s a pretty funny trailer, though not consistently and not in expected ways. Basically what’s being sold here is a kind of ironic Western more than anything, with some laughs along the way as we see people dealing with the violent life they need to live to survive.
Online and Social
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A few paid Tweets crossed my radar, but that’s about it. No TV spots were found and I didn’t see any other online ads being run.
Media and Publicity
The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Venice Film Festival. Those appearances created a good amount of positive buzz and, in the case of the Deauville Film Festival, an award that the stars, writer and director were all on hand to collect.
Reilly spoke while in Toronto about the long journey he’s taken to get the movie made and more. There was also a profile of Reilly that covered how he’s always had a varied and interesting career, as well as talking about how this was one of several movies he had coming out in the next several months. A similar profile hit the same basic points.
The emphasis in the publicity campaign has been on Reilly, which makes sense given Phoenix has been on quite a few recent releases that have involved a good number of interviews and other profiles. It’s good to see, since we don’t often enough give Reilly credit for being able to bounce effortlessly between comedy, drama and everything in between.
Overall the message of the campaign is that the movie deals with the effect violence has on your life and your soul. That’s a good message for today’s world, where violence is too often seen as something that can be easily compartmentalized and put to the side. The word of mouth that’s been generated in the last week or two thanks to festival screenings may help it find an audience in limited release.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
A new interview with John C. Reilly includes hefty background on how is wife Alison Dickey was the one who found the novel and helped bring the movie along.
Another full trailer came out post-release. This one starts out by introducing the brothers and then explaining who they are what they do. What they’re running from isn’t made all that clear, but we do get lots of background on the bond between the two and how committed they are to each other, even if they’ve started to see things differently.
Author Patrick DeWitt, writer of the source novel, was interviewed about what it was like seeing his story and characters be turned into a movie.
Another little “how to” video was released, this time on how to cook a gourmet dinner.
A series of character posters offers brief descriptions of who each of the leads is.