The Laundromat – Marketing Recap

Early reviews called it a bit of a misfire, though a well-intentioned and well-made one with a top-notch cast.

laundromat posterBased on Jake Bernstein’s book “Secrecy World,” this week’s Netflix-original The Laundromat seeks to turn a rather boring financial story – the revelation of what came to be labeled “The Panama Papers” – into high drama. The movie comes from director Steven Soderbergh and stars Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Meryll Streep and a host of others.

Oldman and Banderas play, respectively, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, two highly-connected lawyers at the heart of the shady international dealings uncovered in the documents. Streep plays Ellen Martin, a woman who finds her life upended by the actions of the rich and powerful who take advantage of those “legal” services. Martin’s investigation uncovers just how corrupt the entire system is and how weighted against people like her it is.

Netflix has given the movie a brisk campaign that’s been heavy on festival screenings, trying to sell a whimsical comedic take on a very serious issue. While the 45% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes may not completely tank the film, it also bodes poorly for what should otherwise be a major fall streaming release, one that’s getting a brief theatrical release before it hits streaming next month.

The Posters

A piggy bank wearing sunglasses stands on a pile of currency from various countries on the poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in late August. That irreverent image is meant to convey the movie’s off-kilter humorous tone, setting the audience up for satire more than a straightforward drama.

The Trailers

Jurgen and Ramon are our guides through the first trailer (11.2 million views on YouTube), released in August during the Venice Film Festival. They establish the premise of the story, aimed at exposing parts of society that are rigged to favor the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. Ellen is on their trailer, piecing together clues that show how money and corruption are all tied together, and when secrets are exposed, a lot of people become very angry for their own reasons. It’s all presented as a caper flick, with a loose vibe that frames it as a lighthearted, if terrifying, glimpse behind the curtain.

Online and Social

No website, but Netflix did create a Twitter profile for the film in order to share photos, key press beats and more.

Advertising and Publicity

There had been lots of chatter about the movie but one of the first big moments in the publicity cycle came in late July when it was included in the “Special Presentations” section of this year’s Toronto Film Festival and in-competition at the Venice Film Festival. The TIFF appearance included a conversation with Banderas where he talked about this movie and his career in general. Reviews weren’t wholly positive, though, with some calling it a slight misfire by Soderbergh.

Media and Press

As festival season got underway, Soderbergh was interviewed about how he approached translating the real life story into a film that struck a slightly comedic tone.

An interview with Streep at the Venice premiere had the actress reinforcing that Soderbergh was using a darkly comic tone to highlight a very serious matter. Further interviews during Toronto allowed her to talk about working with Netflix and the darkly comic nature of the story.

Two short clips from the movie were shared via The Playlist in August.

Streep, Banderas and Oldman all talked about the comic tone of the film in a joint interview. Soderbergh talked about the process of luring Streep to the project as well.

Overall

It’s not exactly breaking new rhetorical ground to compare this movie to The Big Short, Adam McKay’s satirical analysis of the banking crisis that led to the 2008 recession. Purely from a marketing perspective, the biggest difference here is there’s clearly a framing device being communicated to the audience, namely the Greek Chorus that is the lawyers played by Banderas and Oldman.

That there’s so much time spent on that framing device, which is largely intended as a big old wink to the audience, that the actual story gets somewhat muddled. The marketing is so busy making sure everyone knows it’s a bit funny that it’s never clear what it is that’s meant to be humorous. You get that there’s some sort of investigation going on, but into what is never communicated.

A new, socially-relevant film from Soderbergh deserves a bit better than that. Fans of the director will likely be anxious to check it out, but there’s little here to generate the kind of discussion or soul-searching that may be needed to fully understand what happened.

Picking Up the Spare

Netflix put out a short trailer just before the movie became available to streaming subscribers.

That release appeared briefly questionable in the face of a lawsuit from a firm involved in the Panama Papers, but that claim was ignored by Netflix and soon thrown out by a judge.

A couple conversations from the movie’s festival appearance have been released with the cast and crew talking about the story and characters.

Streep was interviewed about the story and her surprise dual roles in the film.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again – Marketing Recap

The only thing that’s surprising about Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again coming out 10 years after the first one is that it took this long. My full recap of the movie’s marketing is up at The Hollywood Reporter now and you can read a few additional points here.

Media and Publicity

The cast and crew talked about the film on various occasions, usually while promoting other projects. It really started to get its own focus in interviews like this with Seyfried where she promised things were definitely being kicked up a notch across the board for the sequel.

Around the time of the CinemaCon presentation there was a feature LAT story about how a movie featuring characters like this – older women – is fairly unusual in the middle of the summer.

Overall

First off, 50 points taken from whatever screenwriter shameless cribbed the “I told many, many people” line seen in the trailer from “Sports Night.” I know it’s not a hugely original gag even there, but still…come one.

Considering the campaign is so unconcerned with selling anything resembling a story, I can’t imagine it was anything along those lines that held up production. More likely, in my mind, it was concern over how to make the use of the same handful of ABBA songs from the original movie (and stage production) without giving off the obvious impression of not caring at all.

Universal clearly believes the audience for this sequel will turn out for the spectacle of it all, much like people do for super hero movies. Instead of punching and flying and wisecracks, though, the pitch is costumes, musical sequences and drinking wine while lounging in exotic locations.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Lily James talks here about how she got an American accent down and how she studied Meryl Streep’s line readings from the first movie to mimic her speaking patterns as much as possible.

 

Cher announced she has recorded and will release a whole album of ABBA covers to capitalize on her involvement with the movie and her time once more in the spotlight.

 

Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper both hit late-night talk shows to talk about working with Cher and even kind of the rest of the movie.

 

The producer of the original stage show had a chance to weigh in on the musical’s legacy, and the movie’s director talked about the cameos by two of ABBA’s original members.  
Universal worked with an influencer marketing agency to coordinate a shot-for-shot remake of the original video for “Mamma Mia!” the song featuring a bunch of YouTube personalities.