Relationships take a lot of work. When you first meet someone you find attractive it’s all pheromones and the rush of the unknown and new as your heart beats a little faster, your palms get a little sweaty and your nerves keep you on your toes and ready to jump at the slightest chance to make things *just perfect* for the person you’re wooing. You want them to choose you as the one they’re going to be with because right there at the outset all you see is happiness ahead. Things settle down, though, and quirks become less charming and small irritants take on massive lives of their own. But if you truly love that person you work through them and don’t give up because that’s the person you’re supposed to be with.
The story of how a relationship falls apart is the one in the new movie Blue Valentine. A couple (played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) have their love falling down around their ears. So they take one night to try and put their marriage back together, taking a break from their young daughter and the other responsibilities of their lives and making an attempt to get back to what brought them together in the first place.
The poster for the film opts to display in stark imagery the emotions on display in the movie. Sitting on the sidewalk against a building wall Gosling and Williams are in heavy public affection mode, a sense of urgency evident behind their passion and a city bridge in the background. The whole image is given a blue veneer that matches the title of the film and the title treatment and much of the other copy looks as if it is written in chalk, meant presumably to convey a homemade feel. At the top is a pull quote from an early, festival-based review of the movie that makes the case for the two leads to be serious Oscar contenders.
It’s a pretty good poster but while the image of the two embracing on the street could be seen as conveying the fact that they’re just so deeply in love they can’t help themselves it unfortunately also comes off as selling the movie as the story of two homeless people who fall in love. That might be nit-picking on my part, but it’s a feeling I can’t shake and one that doesn’t jive with the rest of the campaign so it comes across as somewhat odd.
The movie’s trailer focuses on how Gosling’s and Williams’ characters seemingly begin their relationship. We see a cute scene of them singing and dancing but after that starts – but with the music still playing – the scenes shift to a collection of more serious and depressing moments, though still with some happiness mixed in. While it doesn’t give the audience a ton of background it is easily understood that we’re going to be watching a relationship at various stages of its life-cycle, as the couple has their ups and their downs. It’s charming and nice, but it sells the movie as a straight romantic drama, which may not be completely accurate based on other word of mouth.
The movie’s official website opens by putting a recreation of the poster’s key art alongside the trailer, which starts playing as soon as the site loads.
The first section of content is “About” which just has a brief synopsis of the movie’s story, though it’s better and more informative as to the plot than what’s seen on other sites.
The “Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections have career histories of those involved in the making of the movie.
“Media” has the movie’s trailer as well as a handful of extended clips from the film.
There’s also a (now-outdated) link on the site asking people to Join the Blue Valentine MPAA Ratings Appeal, a movement that will be explained more below.
The film’s Facebook page make takes the unusual approach to opening with the photo albums, which include plenty of stills from the its appearance at Sundance 2010. There are also videos and updates on publicity and marketing activities, many of which are replicated on the Twitter feed.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
No advertising that I’m aware of. Given the movie’s ratings struggles it’s highly likely there wasn’t a bunch of time to put together an advertising push and with a small movie like this that doesn’t fit into any easy buckets there wasn’t likely to be a huge campaign to begin with.
Media and Publicity
The movie first started buzzing as people saw its premiere screening at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it was pegged as one of the biggest surprises and strongest dramas (Los Angeles Times, 12/25/10) to come out of what was otherwise not a very exciting dramatic lineup there. Williams and Gosling were both there and did plenty of interviews in support of their feature, which was picked up by TWC before the festival even closed its doors, something that cemented its position as a Sundance stand-out.
Unfortunately the next major round of publicity for the movie came when it was announced the MPAA had slapped it with an NC-17 rating, something many who had seen the film at either its Cannes or Sundance appearances, debuts where it picked up a good amount of buzz, were surprised at since there wasn’t anything they felt to be overly objectionable about the content.
That ruling was a mixed blessing in that while it may have severely curtailed distribution plans that were already in the works it did bring the movie a ton of buzz as the decision was dissected and commented on. Of course The Weinstein Co. promised to appeal (Hollywood Reporter, 10/14/10) the decision and brought in a team of high-profile lawyers (Los Angeles Times, 11/18/10) to plead that case to the ratings board, though the fuss around doing so was partly to keep people talking about the film since, whatever the rating wound up being, the film was reliant on word-of-mouth to make any sort of box-office impact.
The arbitrary nature of the rating was further called into question as it was pointed out (Los Angeles Times, 12/4/10) that the recent Black Swan featured an almost identical sexual act being performed, the difference being that in the other movie it was two girls in bed as opposed to Blue Valentine’s man/woman pairing. If anything that seems less controversial than showing a brief Sapphic affair, making the decision even more nonsensical.
Eventually the affair ended with the announcement that that, upon appeal, the MPAA had redesignated the film with an R-rating (LAT, 12/8/10), likely due to the pressure applied and the other examples given.
It’s obviously not huge, but it’s a good campaign for a movie that has a lot of people talking for good or for bad. The marketing itself makes the smart decision, especially in light of the praise that came from its Sundance screenings, to put the performances by Gosling and Williams at the forefront of the campaign and make those performances the center-point of the push. That’s done at the expense of laying out the story in a clear way but that’s alright since the audience that’s going to be interested here is more likely to latch on to those performances and seek them out.
It’s undeniable that the ratings kerfluffle may be what makes or breaks this movie’s fortunes, though. While people were interested in how it had premiered and brought that back up with the release of marketing materials like the trailer, the controversy over the rating is what brought the film back to the top of most people’s minds. How much of that was manufactured by the Weinsteins for exactly that reason is up for debate but doesn’t really matter since all that conversation has worked to remind people of the movie and that’s what counts.