Movie Marketing Madness: Barney’s Version

Let’s just be honest – some people are, have been and always will be a mess. That doesn’t mean they’re fundamentally bad people. Sure, some are, but just because someone is constantly living in a state of being flustered, directionless and in some sort of conflict with those around them doesn’t automatically mean that they’re not good people. Often they’re just not comfortable in their own skins and haven’t found good ways to deal with that. They try and they love their friends and families but are, again, just kind of a mess.

One of those type of people appears to be the subject of the new movie Barney’s Version. The movie tells the story of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) a guy who doesn’t seem to know what he wants or wants things at the wrong time. His first wife Clara (Rachelle Lefevre) is a bohemian spirit who’s always cheating on him. His second (Minnie Driver) is a spoiled woman who Barney loathes. But when marrying that second wife he meets – and begins chasing after – the woman (Rosamund Pike) who he feels is his true love. The movie is based on the novel by Mordecai Richler that has a lot of fans but which, as we’ll see later on, has been a struggle to translate to the screen.

The Posters

The movie’s poster is a relatively simple design but it does a number of things that I think increase its attractiveness to the audience, at least the portion of the audience that’s going to be pre-disposed to character-driven movies like this.

The design shows mostly the interplay between Giamatti and Hoffman, which is the first thing it does right since the more these two are on-screen playing off each other the better the movie is likely to be, at least that’s the promise here. At the top it shows off the three women that will make up Barney’s romantic history but at the very top are the badges of the film festivals the film has appeared at, giving it that much more credibility in the eyes of that discerning audience. Below the main Giamatti/Hoffman picture is the tagline “First he got married. Then he got married again. Then he met the love of his life.” That’s a great encapsulation of the film’s story in a concise way that’s kind of funny and does a lot to convey the spirit of the movie when matched up against the trailer.

The Trailer

The movie’s first official trailer is kind of fantastic – much better than the early promotional and international versions that had appeared earlier.

We are introduced early on to the premise behind the title, that there’s a story to Barney’s life and this is his version. That life is mainly told through the romances in it, beginning with his first wife, who was carrying another man’s baby but making him think it was his, to his second, which seems to be a physical thing, to the woman he eventually fell in love with after meeting her on the day of that second wedding. There’s a bit toward the end about a gun that ties back to the opening, where someone is confronting him about being a murderer but that’s not really explained or expanded upon.

This is a role Giamatti fits in to very nicely since Barney is kind of a schlub who seems perpetually melancholy but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t seem to play this role very nicely. Particularly attractive seem to be the scenes he shares with Hoffman since this is exactly the kind of role that actor would have – and did – play 20 years ago. So it works in presenting the film as an entertaining but largely known quantity with some reliably good performances.

Online

The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer, which is certainly worth re-watching. You an also view a handful of Stills, find a theater near you that’s playing the movie, read “About the Cast” and download a Press Kit. there’s also information on the source novel and the option to buy it right there.

Entering the site the first section, which loads automatically, is the “Synopsis,” which gives a pretty good overview of the movie’s story.

“Trailer” just as the trailer, obviously and “Gallery” has mostly the same collection of stills that were seen before.

The “Cast” section here has the same information that was found earlier but it’s broken up by actor and not just one long document with everyone’s information. The same sort of backgrounds are given for those behind the camera in “Filmmakers.” Some information on the author can be found under “Mordecai Richler.”

“Reviews” just has a couple of pull quotes from early reviews of the movie but no links to read them in their entirety and “Press Kit” has the same PDF download available.

The “About the Production” section is pretty robust, starting with the publication of the novel and providing an overview of the story before getting in to how the movie actually and eventually came together.

The movie’s Facebook page is pretty standard, with information on where Giamatti in particular was doing publicity for the film and with the usual assortment of photos and video to offer people there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

News of the movie’s acquisition by Sony Classics was the first real bit of news about the movie other than an international trailer (not covered here) that had hit the web  a few months previous. That news coincided with the movie’s debut appearance (Reuters, 9/10/10) at the Venice International Film Festival and, at about the same time, at the Toronto International Film Festival. Between these two appearances the initial buzz about the movie was largely positive, mostly focusing on the excellent cast and their performances.

The journey the movie took from its source book to the screen was also the focus of some stories (New York Times, 11/28/10) that looked at what was cut, what had to be modified and how such a winding and twisting narrative was eventually made to fit into the form and structure film demands.

Co-star Rosamund Pike got profiled (Los Angeles Times, 12/2/10) for having such a varied and unorthodox career that has included some choices that might seem odd based on the fact that she first appeared on the scene as a Bond Girl but which have allowed her to follow her own path. Then both Pike and Giamatti were interviewed (LAT, 12/3/10) about how Barney’s Version fits in – or doesn’t – with the majority of what’s in theaters and what they think about the material.

Overall

The campaign works in its efforts to appeal to fans of independent, character-driven movies by playing up the performance of Giamatti, which is really a no-brainer when it comes to what to highlight. The poster puts him front and center (alongside Hoffman, which again is a great pairing) and he’s in almost every frame of the trailer.

The marketing plays the movie as a tragically funny film filled with moments that you may laugh at as you look through the fingers you’re covering your eyes with because they’re also quite painful as the main character self-destructs before your very same eyes. It all plays together very nicely though and, as I said, presents a very attractive option for those people looking for something that is a little tougher to digest this time of year.

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