The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Marketing Recap

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 Posters

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 Trailers

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.

Overall

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.

Brad’s Status – Marketing Recap

Ben Stiller plays Brad Sloan in the new movie from writer/director Mike White, Brad’s Status. Brad leads a comfortable life with his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and his son Troy (Austin Abrams). They get along just fine and are happy, but Brad feels somewhat unfulfilled. His mid-life crisis happens just as Troy is about to head to college. Wanting to support his son, Brad joins him on a trip to visit various schools.

Along the way, Brad’s ennui is only amplified by constant reminders of the outsized success enjoyed by some of his own friends from years ago. They’re all power players: Mike (White) in Hollywood, Jason (Luke Wilson) on Wall Street, Billy (Jemaine Clement) in tech and Craig (Michael Sheen) as an author. So Brad has to grapple with his own seemingly-unrealized potential while trying to guide his son through a major life moment.

The Posters

The first poster features Stiller and Abrams, the former looking lovingly at the latter. What’s unique is that they’re divided by an outline of Abrams’ face and body like one of the images where you’re asked if you see a woman’s face or a candlestick. A positive quote from an early review is at the top and at the bottom is the copy “The success you’ve been searching for may be right next to you,” a line that obviously is related to the relationship between these two characters.

The Trailers

As the trailer opens we see Brad intrude on and have an awkward moment with his son Troy before the two head off to visit colleges. Brad is nostalgic for the life he never had, though, thinking about the success of his old friends. That midlife crisis coincides with the fact that he’s sending his son off to the next phase of his own life.

It’s funny and emotional and dammit, I get it. I like Stiller in more dramatic roles, including those where he’s just not asked to go super-crazy so this works for me. It lays out the story pretty well, making it clear it revolves around the relationship between Brad and Troy, promising plenty of uncomfortable moments along the way.

Online and Social

There’s not a whole lot happening on the movie’s official website. It just has the “Trailer,” a brief “Synopsis” and a prompt to buy tickets. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, where updates about the release, clips and other information have been shared.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not aware of any paid advertising that was done, though it’s entirely possible I’ve missed something.

Media and Publicity

Annapurna and Amazon partnered on a distribution deal that was closed and announced at Cannes, with a release date just four months out set at that time. It was later included among other movies screening at the Toronto Film Festival, a screening that resulted in middling buzz.

An interview with Stiller revealed he received the script accidentally but became hooked by the story and made his case for the part, which allowed him to bring the anxiety he’s sometimes known for to bear in a father-son story.

White also talked about the inspiration behind the story, how his relationship with his father is reflected on screen and more. He also touched on the choice to direct this movie and the kinds of characters he enjoys creating. Wilson got involved as well, with an interview where he talked about working with Stiller as well as his career in general.

Overall

I’ve written quite a bit in the last year or so about how we’re drowning in movies telling of the troubles and restlessness of privileged white people. All that while one of the key press points about movies like the upcoming Mudbound is that studios are nervous because two movies about slavery inside of one year might be one too many.

This campaign certainly shows Brad’s Status to be in that category as well and so I’m inclined to look a bit sideways at it. But while we can’t ignore the over-indexing on this type of story, as well as the criminal underuse of Jenna Fischer (not just here but in general), it also strikes a chord with me because, quite frankly, the story reflects where I’m at. I may not have the entourage of super-successful childhood friends, but hitting me with a story about a dad wrestling with his own life as his oldest son begins his own…well…there are all the feels on that.

What the marketing does well is use Stiller’s nervous energy, which has aged pretty well, as one of the primary hooks. He’s all awkward nods and interjections, traits that have served him well and which should appeal to the audience in general.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.