When a couple has their first child it can take some time to get used to the fact that the number of people in that relationship has just doubled. The husband and wife often have to reevaluate and adjust how it is they relate to each other in light of the fact that there’s now this extra person they have to pay attention to, often at the expense of each other.
If that child should die, this all has to be done again only this time with the heartbreaking loss to cope with as well. Some people just can’t do it.
The new movie Welcome to the Rileys is about a couple who’s still reeling from the death of their young daughter. Doug (James Gandolfini) and Lois (Melissa Leo) have pretty much stopped being a couple since their daughter’s death. Doug, though, is getting tired of Lois being so emotionally shut down. On a business trip to New Orleans he happens across a young girl who’s about the age his daughter would be and, learning she’s a runaway, is working as a stripper and is living in a rundown house, decides to take her under his wing and help her restore her life. Eventually Lois overcomes her anxieties and joins him and, while there’s some friction, the three begin to form a new bond of their own choosing.
The movie’s one poster takes a pretty standard approach to how it lays out its introduction to the characters. Photos are arranged on the design in such a way that each actor gets a big color photo while next to them is another, more washed out image that’s supposed to either show them kind of watching the others or portray something important about their character. So Gandolfini and Leo are kind of watching the other two interact while Stewart’s image is positioned next to a photo of a stripper wearing platform heels and fishnet stockings.
It does what it needs to do and sells the movie as an ensemble character drama, but this sort of collage tri-band design is used pretty frequently.
The poster also contains a couple of pull quotes from early reviews of the movie as well as its badges from some of the film festivals it was selected to screen at.
The movie’s trailer first introduces us to the Rileys themselves. They’re obviously a broken married couple, with the wife unable to stop grieving over the loss of their daughter and having pulled away from everyone, including her husband. One day he has to go to a convention in New Orleans and happens to come across Stewart’s character, who he befriends in a fatherly way. Seeing her as someone he can help fix – she’s a broke stripper who lives in a rundown mess of a house – and someone who is about the age his daughter would be he becomes a surrogate father of sorts. After a while his wife comes to him in New Orleans and the three begin to form a family unit of sorts.
It’s clear that all three characters will be going on emotional arcs in the movie. Stewart will find the parental figures she lacks and the couple will find someone who not only needs those roles in her life but also finally begin to once again relating to each other as a husband and wife, something that’s apparently been missing for a long time.
The official website for the movie opens by playing the film’s trailer and that’s actually the majority of the site’s content. There’s a Synopsis that is pretty well written and the ability to see which Theaters the movie is playing at but that’s about it.
The Facebook page for the film is slightly more robust, with a Wall of updates and discussions about the movie from fans who are obviously eager to see it along with a selection of photos and extended video clips from the film. There was also a Twitter feed that had a similar stream of updates.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I think I may have seen a little online advertising done, mostly with images that are pulled from the poster key art, but that’s about it. To my knowledge there was no TV advertising done or anything else.
Media and Publicity
The movie’s buzz initially started when it debuted at Sundance 2010, where it picked up some good reviews and healthy word-of-mouth before being picked up by Apparition. It then appeared at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which gave the stars an opportunity to talk about the project (Los Angeles Times, 6/29/10) and what drew them to it.
Of course you can’t have a movie with Stewart without plenty of discussion not only of Twilight but also the actress’ penchant for being massively uncomfortable whenever any sort of fan attention is brought to her (Los Angeles Times, 10/28/10). But that story and other press coverage also goes in to how her role in this movie is different from those movies and more in line with what she’d like to be doing on a more regular basis.
Gandolfini got some press as well, particularly because this sensitive nurturing character couldn’t be more different (New York Times, 10/27/10) from the one he’s famous for playing on HBO. So the overarching narrative of the press coverage for both of these actors has been that this movie represent something of a departure for them, or at least that they’re trying not to be pigeonholed into one type of role, even if that is kind of ridiculous.
The poster and trailer make a nice pair, even if there are some problems with each one. Both explain as well as they can the relationships between the trio of characters and try to draw the viewer into their lives. No, the poster isn’t very original and yes, the trailer seems to devolve to melodrama a bit, but that’s alright since they each do most of what they need to do, which is sell the audience on a character driven drama featuring some decent actors.
The rest of the effort is more of a mixed bag, with a decent publicity effort that’s been mounted even while the website is only one step removed from simply having the URL redirect to the Apple Trailers page. More effort was obviously put in to the Facebook page and that’s more or less understandable, even if I’m not a huge fan of such reallocation of efforts.
Overall it’s an alright campaign for a movie that’s going to live or die theatrically based on word of mouth from its initial limited run and then will likely go on to find a broader audience on video.