Let Him Go – Marketing Recap

How Focus Features is selling a drama showing how determined grandparents can be.

In an episode of “The West Wing,” President Bartlet talks about the determination of grandfathers, but his comments can be applied to grandparents of all kinds. “We’ll make enemies,” he says, “we’ll break laws, we’ll break bones but you will not mess with the grandchildren.”

That quote sums up the story of the new movie Let Him Go, out this week in limited (of course) release. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play George and Margaret Blackledge, a couple whose only son has recently passed away. Their former daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter is now involved with the son of a local family of dubious reputation, something they believe is dangerous for both her and her young baby, George and Margaret’s only grandchild. The two set out to rescue the child from the Weboys, headed by matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville), who has no intention of letting the baby go.

Focus Features’ campaign for the movie, which has a strong 75% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has focused especially on the performances from Costner, Lane and Manville.

The Posters

“Fight for family” says the one poster (by marketing agency AV Print), released in August. George and Margaret take center stage here, their faces shown on one side of the poster looking weathered and determined. On the other half of the poster, the two sides divided by a large shotgun being held by George, we see Lorna with her child in her arms as the two appear to escape a burning house behind them.

The Trailers

George and Margaret, as August’s trailer (5.7 million views on YouTube) opens, are setting out to track down the grandson they barely know after the death of their son and the remarriage of his widow to an abusive man. They’re warned repeatedly that the man they’re after is dangerous, something that applies to his whole family. Their former daughter-in-law is afraid for her life as well as that of her son. Things are going to get violent as they seek to protect both of them against some bad people, but they know it’s the right thing to do and so plow ahead.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website uses Focus Features’ standard format, with items like the trailer, social updates, a synopsis and more linked from the photos and other images that are placed on the page. There were also social profiles created specifically for the film.

Advertising and Promotions

Focus Features originally scheduled the movie for August but pushed it to November amidst continued coronavirus problems and theater closures.

Beginning in the last few weeks of October and running through release (at least), the studio sponsored NPR’s “Morning Edition” to promote the film. Pre-roll ads like this were also placed on YouTube, Hulu and other streaming video platforms.

Other spots were shared that were likely used as TV commercials.

AMC Theaters and Cinemark Theaters got exclusive interviews with Costner and Lane or clips from the movie. Yahoo! Entertainment also got an exclusive clip from the film, as did MovieClips.

A free screening was held in New York City that included a Q&A with writer/director Thomas Bezucha.

In the last week or two Focus has released a short featurette with interviews with the cast and crew on the set. The setting of 1960s Montana and North Dakota were highlighted in a recent episode of the studio’s “Reel Destinations” YouTube series.

Bezucha created a sponsored Spotify playlist titled “Exploring the New Western” with song choices that either inspired him or which are inspired by the themes of the movie.

Media and Press

Interviews with Lane had her talking about this film and the circumstances surrounding its release, what made her choose this project at this point in her career and what it was like reuniting with Costner after the two played Jonathan and Martha Kent in 2013’s Man of Steel. She also appeared on “Good Morning, America” to talk about the movie.

Overall

There have been so many movies and shows in the last 30 years that have called themselves the “new American Western” or something similar, going all the way back to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. The campaign for this movie generally steers clear of such hyperbole, but comes close on occasion, which is a bit more aspirational than is necessary for a movie like this.

Focus Features’ marketing works best here when it’s about the quieter aspects of the film, especially the dynamic between Costner and Lane, who are both such professionals that they play off each other with ease. That’s the real draw of campaign, with the premise and story a solid addition to that core message.

The Highwaymen – Marketing Recap

the highwaymen posterThe story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s criminal exploits has captured the attention of the media and the public for almost a century, helped by the combination of outlaw living, sex and sensationalism. Such stories have almost always focused on how the pair eluded law enforcement for years while committing brazen crimes.

This week’s Netflix original The Highwaymen flips the story to focus instead on the how Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) took over the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde in what would be the final years of their spree. With governors and others embarrassed that things have gone on for so long, Hamer and Gault are the final hope to end things for once and for all.

The Posters

The movie is “Based on the untold true story” according to the poster, which shows the two law enforcement agents against the Texas landscape, well-dressed and with guns at the ready for trouble. The pair are billed as “The legends who took down Bonnie and Clyde” to make sure audiences know this is about a subject they’ve likely at least heard of.

The Trailers

The gruff working relationship between Hamer and Gault is what we first see in the trailer before we move into how the two Texas Rangers are on the trail of Bonnie and Clyde. The crimes perpetrated by that pair are on display as the governor is pressured to catch them, a job she assigns to her two top agents. They’re always one step behind the criminals, though, much to everyone’s frustration. As they stalk the murderers, the lawmen not only jibe at each other but have to face an underworld that sees the outlaws as heroes, not villains, and are unwilling to aid those seeking to bring them to justice.

 

Online and Social

Nope.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Netflix usually does more paid media after the release, but I haven’t seen anything in advance.

Media and Publicity

Netflix released a first still from the movie back in December at the first time it announced a premiere date. About a month later the film was named among those screening at SXSW, an appearance that included an experiential marketing execution that allowed visitors to the venue to interact with actors, have their picture taken and buy swag.

In a nice touch, it was announced Netflix would host Arthur Penn’s groundbreaking Bonnie & Clyde beginning the first of next month, allowing subscribers to view both sides of the story.

Director John Lee Hancock was interviewed about how the project, which has been floating around for over a decade, was originally envisioned as a reunion of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Costner and Harrelson also did a few interviews here there but nothing that seemed to amount to a significant press push, so the hope appears to have been to let that SXSW stunt do most of the earned media work.

Overall

It likely says something about society as a whole that only now, after decades of celebrating Bonnie and Clyde as #squadgoals for living an outlaw lifestyle that hearkened back to the days of the Old West, we’re only now getting the cinematic version of the other side of the story. There may be a desire to no longer celebrate this kind of behavior and instead focus on the serious law enforcement officers who want to restore order to society and reign in the media from its rampant glorification of those who rob and kill for a living.

That word “serious” sums up the campaign and how the movie seems to be positioned. This is a serious story about serious people who have had it up to here with the hijinks. Costner scowls through the entire thing while Harrelson smirks, still seriously. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but for those who miss this kind of mid-level drama being available in theaters it should hit a chord.

Picking Up the Spare

The story of the movie as well as its production was covered in a featurette released by Netflix, including how the filmmakers worked hard to create period authenticity. Another focused on how this movie differs from other portrayals of the criminals’ spree.

Hancock was the subject of additional interviews where he talked about the long development of the project. Costner also shared his thoughts on Bonnie and Clyde. There were also stories about how filming at the site of the criminal’s final stand impacted the stars and more.