How Netflix has sold a drama of single parenting.
Based on the book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin, Fatherhood stars Kevin Hart as Logelin himself, a recently-widowed man whose wife dies and leaves him to raise their infant daughter Maddy (played as a slightly older child by Melody Hurd). Matthew struggles being the only one responsible for his daughter’s emotional, physical and mental well-being, seeking advice and help when it’s needed but determined to be the primary caregiver in her life.
The movie, hitting Netflix this week in time for Father’s Day, has been sold with a campaign emphasizing how unusual it is for a story to focus on a man being a single parent. As we’ll see, that resonates to varying degrees.
Designed by marketing agency P+A, the poster from May shows Matthew asleep with Maddy snuggled beside him, the two fitting in the crib in which she still sleeps. The image is clearly meant to be a mix of sweet, showing how close the two are, and a little funny, playing off how Hart can fit in the crib by only bending his knees slightly.
How the copy “In it, together” uses the comma is also very specific. Without the comma the phrase reads as if the two are partners through life’s journey. With the comma, though, it separates the clauses more definitely, so it reads “They are in it. And they are together.” So you lose the “partners” meaning a bit. Interesting choice.
Matt is overwhelmed and looking for help as the first trailer (1 million views on YouTube), released in May, opens. He’s struggling to raise his newborn baby daughter following the death of his wife shortly after the baby was born. Friends and family offer various levels of support and advice, but Matt is determined to do it himself and while there are plenty of mistakes it’s clear he and his daughter are each other’s support system through the ups and downs.
Online and Social
Nope, but Netflix gave the movie some support on its brand social media profiles.
Advertising, Press and Publicity
Sony sold the movie to Netflix in conjunction with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions in March, with the streamer setting a June release date.
A set of stills was released by Netflix in late April.
When Hart appeared on “The Tonight Show” in May he talked about the movie and how he wanted to depict a positive representation of black parenting.
A behind-the-scenes featurette from early June had the cast and crew talking about the story, the importance of seeing family movies centered around the emotional journey of fathers and more.
Matthew is dropping Maddy off at daycare in a short promo/TV spot released last week.
Earlier this week a faux focus group video with Hart trying to get feedback from a bunch of preschoolers was released, the primary goal of which being to show how out of control Hart is.
What we’re sold here is a Kevin Hart movie we’ve seen variations of before — albeit more on the emotional side and not so much on the overt comedy end of the spectrum — wrapped in a parenting drama. If the movie is truly more dramatic than other entries in Hart’s career, it might have been a better choice to not include so much of his usual self-deprecating mugging. I enjoy the schtick, but it’s out of place here if the message is intended to be different than his other movies.
Also, given there are plenty of movies about how single fatherhood is distinct from single motherhood (Sleepless in Seattle, Pursuit of Happyness, Gifted, The Descendants, Jersey Girl and others all come to mind), the message that this is a unicorn of a film that audiences may not have seen or considered before doesn’t ring entirely accurate. It’s still a nice little campaign, but the two core messages don’t land as solidly as they need to.