The Last Thing He Wanted – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a movie that mixes political and family drama.

the last thing he wanted poster

The Last Thing He Wanted, coming to Netflix Friday, is based on the Joan Didion novel of the same name. Directed by Dee Rees, the movie stars Anne Hathaway as Elena McMahon, a journalist who goes off-script when she gets involved in the government-sanctioned gun-running activities of her estranged father Richard (Willem Dafoe).

That puts her on the radar of Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck), a government agent involved in those activities. Elena must navigate the turmoil of mid-80s Central American politics to have any chance of making it out alive, all while the dangers around her increase the deeper she gets into a world her father long wanted her to stay away from.

Netflix’s campaign for the movie hasn’t reached the level of pushes for its high-profile releases at the end of 2019 but still sells an entertaining feature from a talented filmmaker with a high-profile cast.

The Posters

All the main characters, including local aide Alma (Rosie Perez), are shown on the movie’s one poster (by marketing agency Mocean). McMahon, her father, Morrison and Alma are placed around the poster, all looking off into the vague middle distance as they clearly are pondering serious matters. The colors and way the white stripes are arranged give the design the feeling of a business lounge at an airport-adjacent hotel, but it’s close enough to “serious geopolitical drama” to convey that basic message.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube) was released by Netflix at the end of January. It opens with McMahon and other journalists on the run as soldiers in a South American country break into their office and seize their operations. Her reputation precedes her in U.S. government circles, but when an investigation into arms sales reveals the involvement of her estranged father things get complicated. Undeterred, she embarks on a mission to find out what he’s gotten himself in to, at which point she crosses paths with Morrison, sent there to put an end to the operation. It’s a tight thriller being sold here, one with lots of tense situations and dramatic expressions on the faces of the main characters.

Online and Social

There not being a stand-alone website for the movie isn’t surprising given Netflix rarely creates such sites for all but a few select titles. What is unusual is that it didn’t even give the movie any great volume of promotion on brand social channels, focusing instead on recent romantic comedies and continuing to highlight its association with other high profile filmmakers.

Advertising and Promotions

The first real news about the movie was big as it was announced in 2018 that Netflix would finance and distribute it, obviously loving is previous experience with Rees. That preceded the film’s screening at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

Media and Press

Rees shared her process during Sundance, talking about how she worked to highlight what she felt was a key element of the source book, the kinds of influences she pulled from for the story and more. The cast also talked about working with Rees and getting in the heads of the characters they were playing.

An interview with Rees had the writer/director talk about working with Netflix again on this project as well as how it represents the next step in the progression her career has been on for years.

This movie barely got an off-hand mention in a profile of Affleck that instead focused on the other projects he has in the works.

Overall

As I mentioned in the opening, it’s clear Netflix hasn’t put the same kind of muscle behind this campaign it did for The Irishman and other releases at the end of last year. It’s not even as robust a push as it game the To All The Boys… sequel that came out last week. It’s an indicator that even Netflix, that great disruptor of the exhibition industry and champion of the mid-tier “I mean it’s alright” drama knows where to invest resources and when to just get the movie out and let it be what it will.

It’s just kind of hard to tell what the movie is about or what the focus of the story is in the context of the limited marketing on display here. The relationship between the characters isn’t unclear, the story a bit convoluted and the dynamics in play muddled. So even those who are big fans of solid geopolitical dramas aren’t going to get much to sink their teeth into here. Whatever brand recognition Didion’s original novel, combined with a bit of interest generated by the well-known cast, then becomes the biggest selling point, albeit one that isn’t featured prominently in the campaign.

Picking Up The Spare

Rees was the subject of a new featurette talking about her inspirations for the movie and more.

Joint interviews with Rees and Hathaway had them talking about the movie’s twist ending and how they were able to adapt the source novel while also exercising their own creative freedom.

Well after the film was released, Rees commented on some of the road bumps she encountered and the lessons she learned from the audience’s mixed reactions. 

Dark Waters – Marketing Recap

A fight against entrenched powers comes to the forefront in Focus Features’ campaign.

dark waters posterThe idea that there are good people of virtue and character out there willing to put themselves and their reputations on the line to do what’s right may seem quaint these days, but those are just the kind of people society relies on. We see what happens when they are removed or diminished and it’s not pretty.

Just that sort of virtue is at the core of Dark Waters, the new movie from director Todd Haynes. Based on a true story, Mark Ruffalo stars as Robert Bilott, an attorney who works for major chemical companies. Through a series of circumstances he’s pulled out to visit the farm of a family friend, one where the owner believes pollution from nearby factories is killing his land and his livestock.

Soon Bilott finds himself taking up the cause of farmers and fighting against the very corporations he once defended. Doing so puts him in the crosshairs of very powerful people who would like not to have their bad actions – environmental and otherwise – exposed for all the world to see, thank you very much.

How Bilott and his family face those threats is central to the campaign run by Focus Features.

The Posters

Bilott is shown on the movie’s single one-sheet (by marketing agency Eclipse), released in September, looking out his car window. In the reflection we see a pair of figures approaching the car, the implication being these are dangerous people he’s looking out for. Copy at the top reading “The truth has a man inside” hints at how he will use his knowledge of how the industry works to hit them where they’re vulnerable. It’s a dark and slightly ominous image in keeping with the look and feel of the rest of the campaign.

The Trailers

September saw the release of the first trailer (4 million views on YouTube), which starts out by showing how Robert is convinced to switch sides, defending farmers suffering from the effects of chemical pollution instead of the chemical companies doing the polluting. He begins investigating the water that not only the cows in a small town but the people have been drinking, finding that DuPont has knowingly allowed it to happen for years. The company brings all of its resources to bear in the fight as Robert finds himself and his family targeted by powerful interests who would like him to be silenced.

Online and Social

Though it uses the same template Focus always does, the movie’s site is barely stocked by even today’s meager standards. The trailer, which pops up when you load the page, is also available when you scroll down along with a synopsis and a single photo. That’s it.

Advertising and Promotions

Focus Features announced a November release in August.

Ruffalo, who has gained a reputation as an activist fighting for many worthwhile causes, joined the real Bilott along with others on Capitol Hill recently to advocate for restrictions on various chemicals that are leached into the environment. While in Washington the pair also appeared at a Washington Post Q&A about the movies and the issues it raises.

Participant Media, which produced the film, held other screenings in Austin, New York and elsewhere in recent weeks.

At the premiere the whole cast and crew were in attendance, sharing more of their thoughts on the movie and the issues at the heart of the story.

Advertising efforts included spots like this that condense the story shown in the trailer down to the simple message of farms being destroyed by the willful actions of companies who believe themselves immune from accountability.

Media and Press

How Ruffalo connected with the material and how his commitment to the story and cause were covered in an interview with the actor. He and Haynes spoke about the urgency of the story and what it means to them following a Hollywood screening in late October.

Ruffalo made various talk show appearances on “Good Morning America,” CNN, “The Late Show” and elsewhere.

Haynes received a profile of his own that focused on his process and the kind of environment he creates on the set for the actors.

Overall

A few days ago there was a story quoting a Wall Street analyst who believed, after seeing the movie, it might damage the reputation and business prospects of DuPont, the major antagonist in the story, the one Bilott is fighting hardest against. But, he noted, any negative impact felt by individual investors walking away from the stock (it’s apparently not even feasible institutions would exit their investments) would be mitigated if or when a big M&A transaction is announced.

If there’s a better example of late stage capitalism around I’m not aware of it.

You see something like that in the footage from the movie of Bilott explaining to his wife that the system is rigged, that the people in power aren’t going to protect us and it’s up to us to protect ourselves.

In its quest to play up as many dramatic moments as possible – file boxes being dropped to the ground, doors being shut angrily, people confronted in ballrooms – some of the advocacy seems to get lost in the campaign, but the overall message still comes through. This is a serious film made by serious people about a serious topic that should be important to serious members of the audience. It’s the kind of mid-level drama with a great cast that used to be seen 28 times every Awards Season.

The real reason to see it, though, is to be shown the level of malfeasance on display in America’s corporate boardrooms and what impact it has on the kinds of hardworking Americans the politicians who defend those companies claim to care about. Should the movie serve as any kind of call to action, it will have done its job.

Picking Up the Spare

Ruffalo, Haynes and others were interviewed about the research they did to fully understand the real people at the heart of the story and get their motivations right.

Focus released a behind the scenes featurette with comments from the cast and crew. Another had Ruffalo sharing his first gig while one more discussed the real people portrayed in the story.

A later interview with Ruffalo focused on how he used the film as an outlet for his political nature and he spoke about playing a real individual when he appeared on “The Daily Show.”

Additional profiles of Ruffalo, Haynes and cinematographer Ed Lachman and writer Mario Correa. There was also a feature on how many of the real life people involved in the story were brought on as extras.

The Hustle – Marketing Recap

the hustle posterAnne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson stars in this week’s comedy The Hustle. Hathaway is Josephine, a high-end con artist living in luxury because she sets her sights high, targeting wealthy men and playing them like a fiddle. Wilson’s Lonnie is also a con artist but on the other end of the spectrum, taking marks for $50 here and $100 there.

When Lonnie meets Josephine she’s in awe of what the more successful woman has accomplished, convincing Josephine to take her under her wing. So Josephine begins to train Lonnie to up her game a bit, using more skills to get more money than she could ever dream of. That leads to lots of comedy as their styles clash.

The Posters

There’s just the one poster that shows Lonnie and Josephine posing in front of a solid gold luxury car looking fabulous and ready for action. The movie’s status as a loose remake of an earlier story is hinted at in the copy “They’re giving dirty rotten men a run for their money.” It’s not a bad effort, presenting a gold-hued blank slate for the audience to project all kinds of hijinks on to.

The Trailers

Lonnie is working her magic on an unsuspecting mark as the first trailer opens, taking him for an extravagant meal while feeding him a story about a missing sister. That gets the attention of Josephine, who sees unrealized potential and so takes Lonnie under her wing to teach her the finer aspects of the con. Lonnie’s rough nature makes that education rough sledding and we see the trouble Josephine has teaching her student subtlety and sophistication.

Most of the scenes shown in the trailer are recognizable as variations on those from the 1988 film, but that’s alright. The dynamic between Hathaway and Wilson is solid, the two playing off each other well as they each vie for a position of power. It looks fresh and original despite its status as a third-generation remake, thanks largely to the talent involved.

The second trailer, released at the end of April, is pretty short and starts out by mimicking the trailers for Avengers: Endgame, using black and white shots featuring just a single stand-out color, in this case yellow. After asking “Who will take a stand?” for the centuries of injustice endured by women, it presents Josephine and Lonnie as “The Revengers” before showing the two of them engaging in their cons and only begrudgingly getting along.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual marketing materials, the movie’s official website features a video for the Avril Lavigne song from the film but as a downloadable file that people are then encouraged to upload to their own social network profiles. The theory seems to be that getting more people to share original video will help it trend and rank higher in search and news feed algorithms than if people share a post from the movie’s page or profile.

In addition to the usual networks the website also links to a Giphy profile filled with GIFs pulled from the trailers that you can share on your own.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

AMC and other theater chains helped to build buzz with advance “Girls Night Out” screenings the week prior to wide release.

Some TV advertising was done but none were shared on MGM’s YouTube channel.

Media and Publicity

Wilson and Hathaway were interviewed about the costumes they wore and how this movie does or doesn’t diverge from the original film.

The first clip from early May showed Lonnie begging Josephine to take her under her wing and teach her to be a high-end con artist, threatening a call to Interpol if she refuses. Another has Josephine showing Lonnie how to cry on demand in order to manipulate the men they’ve targeted. Later on there were additional clips showing the scene at the casino table and more.

An interview with the pair on the BBC’s “Graham Norton Show” was repurposed as a featurette focusing on Wilson’s efforts in her role as producer to address the sexist double standard that originally slapped the movie with an R rating.

Hathaway showed up on “Good Morning America” to promote the movie and share how nervous she was to take on a British accent given the backlash she’s faced when doing so in the past. Wilson appeared on “The Today Show” to talk about the story as well.

Overall

The studio isn’t trying too hard to play down the movie’s status as a remake of an earlier film, nodding in that direction with copy and taglines and more. It’s not a bad approach to take, especially since it’s such a safe bet in an age where remakes, reboots and other revisitings of known material are easy sells to investors even if audiences aren’t always on board.

That approach does a disservice to the actors in this version, though, playing down what they can do and are doing by needing to fit them into a neat little box. By focusing so intently on using scenes that are reenactings of those made famous by Michael Caine and Steve Martin it casts Hathaway and Wilson in the role of imposters as opposed to giving them something original to do.

Picking Up the Spare

More Promoted Tweets like this ran in the days following the movie’s release. 

A clip was released that focused on the black dress Wilson sports in a key sequence from the movie. 

Wilson did more TV appearances as did Hathaway. The latter also spoke more about the movie during her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. 

Another TV commercial released after the movie was in theaters touted its position as “The #1 comedy” in the country, a nice way to snatch victory. 

Serenity (2019) – Marketing Recap

serenity posterIt seems the McConaissance may have been as short-lived as people feared. The Dazed and Confused star is, after a brief period of acclaim in a number of starring roles, back to the kind of mid-level dramas he was once consigned to. This week that’s exemplified by Serenity, in which he costars with Anne Hathaway.

In the movie McConaughey plays Baker Dill, a low key fishing boat captain with a mysterious past in a small island town. His efforts to not be noticed are disturbed when his ex-wife Karen (Hathaway) appears. She wants his help for a very disturbing task: Killing her current husband (Jason Clarke). Her arrival and the burden placed on him lead him to question a great deal of what he’s come to understand.

The Posters

McConaughey and Hathaway are shown on the one-sheet split apart by a massive red tear that we see is the wake being left by a boat visible further down the image. In that red wake are the names of the stars. The mysterious nature of the story and its location are spelled out – or at least hinted at – in the copy placed above the title treatment.

It’s not a bad design, offering big photos of the two primary stars and doing a good job of explaining to the audience what’s going on. It’s not wholly memorable, but it’s memorable in its own way even if it looks like the cover to a book you consider buying at the airport but ultimately can’t commit to.

The Trailers

Jack is a man who’s trying to outrun his past in the first trailer, just wanting to remain largely anonymous and fish in a small New England town. His plans are interrupted by the appearance of his ex-wife, there to convince him to utilize his skills to kill her current husband, who she claims is violent toward her. The rest of the trailer is about him looking for a way to avoid doing what Karen has asked and maintain the simple lifestyle he’s built up, though it’s not looking like that’s likely for him.

It’s a dramatic thriller being sold her, something that reminds me in tone of movies like Pacific Heights and others. It’s all about hidden agendas, searching for the truth, not wanting to give into temptation and so on. McConaughey is who he is, but Hathaway and Lane look outstanding here, with the former giving off a very Barbara Stanwyck-esque vibe.

The second trailer, released in late November, strikes a similar tone but comes at the story slightly differently. It drops the connection between Jack and Karen, instead selling it as a mystery of bizarre circumstances, where Jack and the others don’t know exactly where they are or how they got there.

Online and Social

The official website established by Aviron Pictures doesn’t offer much in the way of overly-useful information beyond the basic material and content. There are sections devoted to a couple giveaways involving island vacations or gear, but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The second trailer was used as a promoted post on Twitter after it was released.

Entertainment Weekly partnered with the studio on a sweepstakes awarding a winner a trip to the Dutch Caribbean, appropriate given the movie’s location.

Media and Publicity

An early production still featuring Hathaway and McConaughey constituted everyone’s first real look at the movie. Later on it was finally picked up for distribution by Aviron Pictures.

Things went dark for quite a while between those two events, but as release neared Hathaway started appearing on late night television, McConaughey showed up during football game broadcasts and elsewhere, and a clip or two was distributed to media. Hathaway was also the subject of a quick feature interview.

Overall

Not much happening here. This seems like a lackluster campaign for a movie that very much fits the definition of the “dump it in January” release, the kind of mid-grade drama that’s high concept enough to be interesting but not interesting enough to get people to come out of the cold. There’s a distinct lack of effort in not putting both stars out there more for the media, but that may simply be because they have other, more important things for them to be promoting.

Picking Up the Spare

In the last few days before the movie hit theaters a number of clips like this one were released.

Both Hathaway and McConaughey continued doing press and TV appearances.

Ocean’s 8 – Marketing Recap

oceans 8 posterSeveral years ago comedian John Mulaney joked that a female Ocean’s 11 couldn’t happen because there’d be no actual coordination. Two of the crew would, he said, would split off to gab about the other nine and the planning would devolve into passive-aggressive sniping. You know…like women do. Little did he know that Ocean’s 8, out this week, would be exactly that, only without the sexism implied in the bit.

You can read the core of the marketing recap for the movie at The Hollywood Reporter, while below I share some of the additional online and publicity beats not included there.

Online and Social

The “main” trailer plays when you load up the official website for the movie, so take a couple minutes and watch that again. After that the main page features the red curtain-themed key art with links to buy tickets or connect with the movie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As far as the rest of the site’s content there isn’t a whole lot. “Cast” just has the characters posters for each member of the team along with the name of the actress that plays her. “Videos” has the first two trailer and the “Gallery” has a handful of images. Finally, “Partners” just has information on the Cartier partnership detailed elsewhere.

There was a Snapchat filter created back in December timed with the release of the first trailer.

Media and Publicity

Outside of casting announcements, some of the first press was an interview with director Ross as he talked about working with Soderbergh over the years and more. It was a while then before the first production still was released.

Through 2016 and 2017 there were a few publicity pops here and there, including Blanchett talking about about why only eight women are involved here, Paulson shooting down the idea that all-female sets are filled with “cat fights” and more. Basically the cast spoke briefly about it while they were promoting other projects.

After the second trailer was released the publicity kicked into gear a bit, including this interview with members of the cast and the director where they talked about getting the vibe of the first three movies to come through here as well. There was also a profile of costar Awkwafina in EW’s summer movie preview that probably brought her to the attention of a lot of new people in the audience as well as a similar profile in the Los Angeles Times and then in Buzzfeed. Those stories came at the same time WB was presenting the movie to CinemaCon attendees as part of its upcoming release slate.

Later on there was an interview with Bullock and Kailing where the two talked about the unique opportunities afforded by working on a set filled with other women, something that doesn’t happen often as most of the time they’re the lone female around. At a press event hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art the whole cast talked about working together and how they all worshipped and adored Blanchett and showed off their fashion.

The press tour more or less started with Paulson showing up on “The Tonight Show” and talking about being starstruck by the cast she was working with. Kaling did likewise on “Late Night” as did Hathaway on “The Late Show” while Bullock hit “Kimmel.” There were a few instances where there was a group effort by all or most of the cast, including things like this game of “Never have I ever”, Rihanna making her costars uncomfortable and more. Kaling also showed up on “Ellen” to talk about working with all the other ladies.

That didn’t mean there weren’t individual efforts such as this solo interview with Hathaway, a feature profile of Kaling, a similar profile of Bullock and one for Rihanna. That being said, there has been a strong focus on selling the whole assembled star power. There was also a conversation with screenwriter Olivia Milch where she talked about the challenges of writing the movie, including introducing a bunch of female characters to a predominantly male universe and what that meant in terms of audience expectations.

Paulson and Blanchett gave a hilariously off-the-wall joint interview on “Today” that included more jokes at each others’ expense than information about the movie. Bullock also talked more about the movie, her career in general and the sexist behavior she’s been exposed to over the years.

AMC announced a special advanced “Girls Night Out” screening at select locations to help get the buzz going, an event that was open to all genders despite the name.

Overall

In addition to what I shared at THR, I just want to point out that this movie *feels* like an installment in the Ocean’s franchise. It has the same sizzle and energy as the trailers for the first three movies and that’s a big chunk of the heavy lifting that needed to be done. While the campaign doesn’t make the connection to the earlier movies overt, it gives off the vibe of being part of the same world and featuring some of the same character types, which is very much a good thing.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

There were multiple interviews with Sarah Edwards, the movie’s costume designer, as she talked about outfitting all the actors for the fake Met Gala they attend. How that event was filmed was also the subject of a behind-the-scenes profile.

 

Get the details on the Touissant Necklace that is the object of the heist.

 

Given that James Corden has a supporting role in the movie it’s only natural the cast would stop by his show to have some fun.

 

Gary Ross, the movie’s director, spoke about what cameos from the first three movies did or didn’t make the cut for the finished film.

 

More from Anne Hathaway and others in the cast here about how they hope the movie will help burst the myth that female-led movies are question marks theatrically.
Another quick profile of breakout star Awkwafina here. And Helena Bonham Carter is finally getting some attention with a profile where she talks about how fun it was to work on a light caper movie.