Film adaptations of weighty literary tomes – I’m not talking about sheer page count like with The Lord of the Rings and other such films but the ones that are philosophically deep as well as sometimes just long – are usually tough to do. Inevitably some of the source book’s original meaning and depth are lost as the constraints of the film medium require plot points are dropped, characters are merged or finagled into simpler arcs for the audience to follow and other changes are made. It may wind up that, based on its own merits, the film is as good or even better than the book but a lot of times the two have little in common other than a title and some character names.
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men is an adaptation of the David Foster Wallace novel of the same name. Coming from first-time director John Krasinski – the actor who plays Jim on NBC’s “The Office” – stars Julianne Nicholson as a woman who sets out to interview men of all types to see what makes the male brain tick. Along the way she interviews Krasinki’s character and a relationship develops that forces her to re-evaluate her work and many other things about her life.
The Hideous Men poster puts, for lack of a singular image that the visuals can be hung on, the focus on the cast list. That list is displayed on the paper grocery bag that’s placed over someone’s head, the implication there being that this hidden gentleman has done something he’s in hiding over, either of his own choice or that of someone else. At the bottom is some kind of awkward copy about being warned but then inviting the audience to listen in.
It’s not a bad poster but it doesn’t exactly create a strong sense of desire in the audience. I’m not sure what kind of imagery would, precisely, but this looks…well, it looks like a book cover. I’m not sure that’s completely a bad thing considering the source but it also doesn’t lend itself to a strong visual that’s needed here. I don’t want them to just slap everyone’s faces up there but it would have been better, I think, to incorporate this strong cast’s presence in some way shape or form.
The trailer certainly sets up the film pretty well, at the least the basic bones of it. We see a handful of shots of Nicholson’s character (actually she’s off-screen for much of these shots) interviewing various men, either in a gray cinder-block walled room or in a more informal conversational setting. It’s not until toward the end that we get a scene of her explaining to Timothy Hutton’s character – presumably some sort of academic or other adviser – about the research project she wants to undertake. In the middle there are a couple appearances by Krasinski’s character and some clear pointers to how the two of them are, at least for a short while, in a relationship. But mostly it’s men giving voice to their ID and acting like scumbags.
The trailer actually, I think, works quite a bit better than the poster. It’s funny and, because it’s video and not a static image, is able to show off much of the cast without coming off as too cluttered. Granted, there’s not a ton of story points that are dropped, but there’s enough that the audience should be able to get a sense of what the film is about and judge appropriately.
The official website is more than a little disappointing, even by the standards of most small movies. The poster is displayed, along with the cast and crew lists and a link to the trailer.
There are a couple of links at the bottom to information about David Foster Wallace but none that’s worth seriously checking out, much less links to any of the coverage the movie has received on movie blogs or other entertainment industry outlets. The same Peter Travers pull quote that appears on the poster is put in the middle of the page. Overall if you’re actually looking for information about the movie this is a disappointment
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I’ve seen on either front.
Media and Publicity
Much of the movie’s word-of-mouth was the result of its debut at 2009’s Sundance Film Festival, where it didn’t receive a universally warm reception but also didn’t stink up the joint, which a decent showing for such an ambitious project from a first time director. Unfortunately, like many films appearing there, it didn’t get picked up right away, with time elapsing until the July announcement that IFC had picked up distribution rights.
There was also news a short time before it was scheduled to hit theaters that not only would that theatrical release be preceded by a VOD showing but would be following shortly thereafter by it being made available for free on Hulu. As Matt Dentler points out, that’s not only a ballsy distribution strategy but also one that’s likely meant to play into the popularity of Krasinski’s day job, “The Office,” on that streaming site.
The poster and trailer are pretty good, with their own respective strengths and weaknesses. And the focus is rightly on generating as much publicity and word of mouth for the movie as possible, even if there’s a fumble at the endzone by not using the positive components of that WOM as amplifiers for the movie’s campaign. I’m disappointed but not completely surprised by the lackluster official website. So overall it’s a campaign that is going to reach the independent film crowd but not many others, which isn’t that far from being a success. Still, I wish there was a bit more to it so the movie could be found by a bigger audience.
Interesting that as a number of companies put their CEOs in traditional ads (Chicago Tribune, 9/25/09) some “branding experts” say that’s not what people want to see in commercials. That thinking runs counter to conventional wisdom in the social media marketing field, where having a C-suite executive be the one writing a blog or running a Twitter feed is seen as one of the ultimate goals since their participation brings a sense of authority and authenticity to the effort.