Jillian Bell has been everyone’s favorite part of a number of recent comedies, reliably coming in to deliver one kind of outrageous performance of another. Now she steps into a leading role with this week’s Brittany Runs a Marathon.
Bell plays Brittany, a woman whose life is going nowhere fast. Unable to get herself started and feeling the pressure to get things together, she eventually decides to focus on exercise, setting a goal of running the New York Marathon for herself. That’s not going to be easy as her current exercise routine consists of nothing, but with the help of some of her friends she might be able to do it while changing other parts of her life along the way.
“You can’t rush progress” the first poster from June (from marketing agency InSync Plus) tells us while showing Brittany walking across the street while wearing a workout outfit at the same time she’s sipping wine through a straw. That she’s positioned in the opposite direction as the blurred crowd around her is meant to emphasize how she goes her own way in life and won’t do things by the book.
The second poster, released in July, is meant to not show as much about the movie but more make seeing it a sure thing for the audience. To achieve that it shows Brittany lounging on top of the title treatment, with the majority of the real estate devoted to positive critic quotes from early festival screenings, particularly the Sundance one noted at the very top.
The final poster (from marketing agency The Refinery) from just a week prior to release shows Brittany looking like she’s been caught with her running shoes in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, as if she can’t decide which one to choose. A few more positive notes grace the upper right but there’s no additional copy
As the trailer (5.9 million views on YouTube) opens Brittany is seeking help from a doctor, citing lack of focus when it’s really that she parties all the time and needs Adderall to help her keep up with her own lifestyle. Instead, the doctor tells her to lose weight and get healthy, something she’s skeptical of. Her career has stalled and life is stuck. Eventually things come together as her attempts to begin running become easier and she meets a guy while apartment-watching for her sister. That leads to other more positive changes in her life as well.
I have problems with how this trailer starts, mostly because it casts those seeking Adderall as likely up to shady business. Doing so puts everyone who uses it as prescribed for actual medical reasons in a bad light. Other than that, what’s shown is an inspirational story of a woman reclaiming control of her life, using exercise as the central component of that effort.
Online and Social
Amazon Studios’ website for the movie doesn’t have much as it’s focused on selling tickets, not informing or capturing the attention of visitors.
Advertising and Publicity
A screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival earned the movie a number of accolades and praise there, especially for Bell’s performance, resulting in Amazon snatching it up quickly for a reported $14 million, a price that was helped by the movie’s winning the Audience Award.
Clips began coming out in early August, starting with one where Brittany balks at the price quoted by a gym she’s considering joining. Another has friends commenting on how she looks post-workout while a third shows how she’s trying to get Adderall from her doctor as a way to get her life on track.
The movie had a handful of promotional partners, including:
- Tinder, which had Bell and others from the film in a promotional spot to show how easy finding a date on the app can be.
- Runtastic, which ran a contest challenging people to run the distance of a marathon in a month to win a trip to New York City.
Just a couple weeks ago the movie screened at the inaugural 51Fest, serving as the movie’s New York premiere.
The recent L.A. pink-carpet premiere featured a blow up entrance like those found at marathon starting lines and included appearances by the cast and crew along with the woman whose story inspired the film.
Media and Press
A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at Sundance.
Bell spoke about the personal issues she dealt with while making the movie and how they factor into her career in this profile. She was also featured in this piece that included comments from Amazon Studios execs about how this movie deserves to be seen in theaters as an attractive counter-programming option. There were other features that pointed out how, after a number of well-regarded supporting roles, this was the first time Bell was being put in the lead.
An appearance on “The Late Show” also had Bell talking about the experience of getting so much exercise in on the set of the film. The transformation she underwent was covered in an appearance on “CBS This Morning.” Similar topics came up when she showed up on “The Today Show.”
At the movie’s premiere Bell spoke about how much the movie meant to her personally by sharing how it’s the kind of story she wanted to see when she was younger. Costar Utkarsh Ambudkar also commented on how it was refreshing to not be typecast based on his ethnicity. Ambudkar was featured on a recent segment of “PBS Newshour” talking about that topic and other moments from his career.
Variety published a major feature that covered much of the film’s conception and development, calling attention again to Bell taking on a leading role as well as how the supporting cast was assembled.
It’s great to see Bell stepping out into the spotlight after years of working in supporting roles. The campaign makes sure she’s the central figure throughout every element as it sells Brittany’s story of making changes to improve her life and begin adulting like the rest of us.
An official tracking estimate doesn’t seem to be available for opening weekend, but in many stories the film has been positioned as one that could hopefully buck the trend of original properties underperforming. Last week’s Good Boys played that role in many ways, but it will seemingly be even harder for a female-led movie to do likewise.
While the campaign could have been a bit more robust – it plays like a carbon copy of Amazon’s push for Late Night – it certainly doesn’t keep its primary selling point hidden, which is a good thing in and of itself.
Picking Up the Spare
More from Bell on her connection with the material and a joint interview with Brittany O’Neill, who the story is based on, had both of them talking about health and body image.
Director Paul Downs Colaizzo was interviewed about why he thought Bell would make the perfect one to play the real-life character. Bell offered more about how she goes after or is offered roles here.
Interesting details on how the production faked massive crowds for for the movie’s key marathon sequence.
Colaizzo spoke here about the decisions made regarding Brittany’s arc and his choice to focus on the inner as well as the physical struggle and transformation.
Fun little featurette with Bell and Watkins about the strength of their friendship.