Where’d You Go Bernadette – Marketing Recap

whered you go bernadette posterWriter/director Richard Linklater returns to theaters with this week’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Based on the book by Maria Semple, the movie stars Cate Blanchett as Bernadette, a wife and mother who has become frustrated by years of being unable to express the artistic side that won her massive acclaim years prior.

To try and restart the creative engines, Bernadette escapes the world of petty feuds with her neighbors and sets out on a journey to Antarctica as a way to rediscover who she is and what excites her.

The Posters

whered you go bernadette teaser posterA teaser poster tries to be a bit too clever, showing the movie’s title as if it’s the beginning of a text conversation asking “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” with a reply, presumably from Bernadette, still pending, marked by the “…” showing she’s still typing.

“Disappearances can be deceiving” the second poster proclaims, explaining further down the design this is “A mysterious comedy” from Linklater. Blanchette’s face, with sunglasses covering her eyes, is seen in front of a paper cut out of mountains, helping to establish that the character is going to go on some sort of journey, especially when combined with the copy. The poster uses a similar look and feel as the cover of Semple’s book, with Bernadette’s face in front of a backdrop of mountain tops.

The Trailers

Becky is surprising her parents at the opening of the first trailer by reminding them of a promise made long ago. Her request is to go to Antarctica, but they’re understandably reluctant. We see more of the family dynamic before Bernadette goes missing, leading everyone on a chase to figure out where she went to and why.

The second trailer from early May shifts the focus to be more on Bernadette herself, showing how she’s unfulfilled by the life that’s developed around her while her daughter worries her mom’s not living up to her full potential. Bernadette takes out her frustrations by terrorizing her neighbor in various ways, a problem that has developed because she’s no longer indulging her creativity. When a new project catches her attention she begins acting out, leading up to her literally running away from her life and to Antarctica and all the challenges it presents. It’s much more clear about relationships and motivations and presents a much better picture of the movie and story.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual batch of marketing materials, the movie’s website has a “Becoming Bernadette” feature that allows visitors to create their own Bernadette, customizing hair, sunglasses and other features in the same style as the cover to the source novel.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was among those announced by AMC Theaters as part of the first curated under its Artisan Films program to highlight smaller films.

In late July Fandango released an exclusive featurette that had Blanchette and others, including author Maria Sample. THR also hosted their own exclusive featurette on the movie.

Annapurna put out a video offering the recipe to the “Pink Penguin” cocktail shown in the trailers.

A partnership with Yaymaker encouraged people to visit one of that chain’s locations for a night of painting and other creative expression, in keeping with the movie’s story and themes.

whered you go bernadette yaymaker.png

Media and Press

People kind of knew he was shooting a film of some sort but a conversation with The Houston Chronicle confirmed some of the story details while also including a request for stories anyone from the area who was alive around 1969 might have.

Linklater, Blanchette and others were interviewed about how they connected with the source material and more.

Blanchette is slated for a handful of late night and other talk show appearances throughout the week. Emma Nelson, who plays Bernadette’s daughter Becky, also made the media rounds in the last couple weeks.

Overall

For a movie that seems to be built around a singular character the marketing never seems to build a strong, identifiable personality of its own. Yes, Blanchette’s Bernadette is out there being as bold as she can be, but the campaign as a whole seems unable to decide if it’s a wacky family comedy or a dramatic story of a woman rediscovering who she is. There are elements of the story that are introduced and then never addressed again and it never provides a strong call to action for the audience to seize on.

That being said, the way it maintains the branding from the book is a good move, as is putting Blanchette at the forefront of the campaign. It just seems the studio wasn’t sure what to do with a movie that might not be easily placed in a single category. That’s not uncommon with Linklater, who frequently blends genre elements in his stories, but it seems it’s made selling the movie a somewhat difficult proposition.

Picking Up the Spare

Here’s Blanchette’s appearance on “The Late Show.”

There were a number of additional interviews with Blanchett and Linklater in particular, talking about the challenges in filming, the process of rewriting the source novel, working with Blanchett and what lessons Linklater has learned over his career.

Annapurna released another cocktail recipe video as well as a featurette on the character played by Kristen Wiig.

Last Flag Flying – Marketing Recap

The emotional trauma and bonds of brotherhood that results from experiences in war are explored in the new movie Last Flag Flying. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, the movie stars Steve Carell as a man who learns his son, who followed his example and joined the Marines, has died in the Iraq War in 2003.

Before setting out on the trip to claim his son’s remains for burial, Larry (Carell) tracks down and enlists the help of two of his closest friends from their time in the service, Richard (Laurence Fishburne) and Sal (Bryan Cranston). Larry doesn’t just want to be there for his son’s return but wants to take him back to his hometown for burial, eschewing – to the surprise of most – a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Posters

The three friends stand together on the first poster, Larry clutching the folded flag he received upon retrieving his son’s body. That clearly conveys to the audience that death, as well as friendship, is at the center of the story. The friendship angle is reinforced by the copy that reads “Their last mission wasn’t on the battlefield.”

The Trailers

We meet Sal and Larry as the trailer opens, with them having taken some sort of impromptu road trip and go find Mueller. All three were buddies in the Marines back in the day and Larry’s son, who did likewise, has been killed. The Corps wants to bury him at Arlington, but Larry wants to bring him home, so his friends join in the effort, despite the obstacles.

So it’s being sold as a road trip movie featuring three reunited old friends. What sets this apart from other movies that have had similar stories is the talent and charisma of the three leads as well as the emotional story. This isn’t a crazy comedy where there will be at least three Viagra jokes, the trailer promises, it will be a drama about family, grieving and your duty to old friends.

It should also be noted that for as many times as I’ve watched this trailer, I still well up every damn time. It’s the music. It’s the story. It’s the stoic grief. It’s…yeah.

Online and Social

Load up the official website and the trailer starts playing in case you need a good cry this morning. Once it closes you get a recreation of the key art of the three actors looking somberly at the camera. There’s a prompt to get tickets on the page while at the bottom are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Moving on to the content menu at the top of the page, “Synopsis” offers a brief write-up of the story. Skipping over “Videos,” which just has the trailer, next up is the “Gallery,” where you can check out a number of production stills.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online and social advertising was done around the release of the trailer as well as in the last week using the trailer, short clips or variations on the key art.

While I couldn’t find them online, it does seem some TV advertising was done recently, with the movie’s Twitter account sharing a photo of a commercial that apparently aired during one of this past weekend’s World Series broadcasts.

Media and Publicity

News broke back in June that the movie would get a high-profile debut by screening at this year’s New York Film Festival, where it went on to garner decent praise and buzz and where Linklater talked about it briefly, including praising Amazon Studios for helping him to make the movie after a decade of false starts.

Shortly after the first trailer debuted and while the movie was screening at festivals Linklater talked about finally making a movie about grown-ups, how time spent with friends inspired some of the story and more.

While at NYFF, Fishburne addressed how the intent was not to tie the movie to anything overtly political happening at the moment but to tell the story of a father doing what he can to grieve for and honor his dead son. Linklater made similar comments, saying the story would have played out the same even if Hillary Clinton was currently occupying the White House.

Where the movie falls in Cranston’s career was the primary subject of this feature interview as well as how he decides what roles to take, regardless of how they might be viewed by others.

Cranston and Carell have made a few media appearances in recent weeks and will likely be making more in the coming days as we get close to release.

Overall

Amazon Studios’ campaign isn’t massive, possibly because it follows just a week after the release of Wonderstruck, for which there was a much more comprehensive and general push. That’s not to say it hasn’t put a solid or committed effort together, just that the lack of additional paid efforts and a more subdued publicity campaign adds up to signal that this is a movie it doesn’t think will have the widespread appeal of that other movie.

While the volume may not be quite what we’ve seen for other movies, the emotions here are the real selling point. Everything about the campaign wants you to feel Larry’s conviction, determination and stubbornness deeply, mostly be experiencing them through the filter of Sal and Richard. Linklater has underscored this in interviews, but there really isn’t anything political in the campaign. It’s just about a father who wants to do right by his son and needs the emotional and other help of two men he’s always been able to count on. It’s not taking a stance on the war or anything, it’s just about dealing with a tragedy no parent should have to face in the most manageable way he can.

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