Movies about love affairs – whether told in a dramatic or comedic way – are, in general, pretty much well trod territory. Writing about how they’re cliches is almost as cliched as the movies often are themselves, in fact, and so I’ll try to avoid getting too deeply into that. Let’s just say that most of the ways you can tell this kind of story have been explored, likely multiple times.
Occasionally something comes along that seeks to take a fresh stab at the genre by mixing things up a bit. Along those lines comes Peter & Vandy. Starring Jason Reitman and Jess Wexler as the titular couple, the movie is being billed as a love story that’s told out of order, a device that presumably is meant to shake up our expectations and provide more stirring contrasts between the happy beginnings and disappointing endings in the relationship.
The movie’s one poster has a nice, if awkwardly Photoshopped, photo of the two leads looking past or around each other, which actually (if read generously) does a decent job of showing that the characters are sort of hovering around each other. A smaller shot in the upper left hand corner has them in a more tender moment, while the other two smaller pictures on the design position New York City as the third lead character in the movie.
The title treatment and other text is rendered in a pleasant DIY, indie hipster manner, giving the audience a clear idea of what these characters – and the movie as a whole – are most likely like. It’s overall a pleasant poster, but the look and feel, I think, clearly identifies it as being for an independent-minded movie and so will probably be dismissed by anyone mainstream audience members that come across it.
The trailer does little but cement that “hipper than thou” vibe the poster can only allude to and hit at. We’re introduced to Peter and Vandy at the same moment they’re introduced to each other. We then follow them around their relationship at various moments, just as the film presumably does. There are some scenes of them together looking happy, some of them together but looking miserable and some of them apart and finding ways to deal with that.
The music veers a little too far into the realm of annoying, especially with the addition at a couple points of actual montages of still images. There’s a strong sense that comes through from the footage that Vandy is very much the one who’s dictating the terms of the relationship, with Peter looking more often than not like an emotionally needy puppy dog looking to keep her attention.
There’s also one scene that sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest, the one of Vandy and her (friends? family?) explaining to a young girl why Peter isn’t joining them. It sticks out because it’s such a mainstream type of moment that it pulls us out of the vibe of the trailer, which is focused not on an explanation of the relationship but of the relationship itself. Other than that one moment and some of the music it’s an alright trailer, though one I’m willing to bet was hard to assemble.
The official website for the movie has, as its backdrop, a nice rotating selection of stills from the movie that transition using the same tile effect that’s used in the trailer and, to some extent, the poster. That creates a nice cohesiveness to the campaign right there that I like a lot.
“About the Film” starts off the main content sections with a couple paragraphs about the movie’s story, origins as a play and soundtrack.
“Screenings” has information on its limited roll out to New York, Los Angeles and Irvine, CA. And skipping down a few, “Press Kit” has, naturally, a press kit you can download as a PDF. Finally on this angle is “Contact Info” where you can find email addresses and phone numbers for the people to contact with press or other questions about the movie.
“Media” is where you can view – but not download – the movie’s poster and watch the trailer. The last section left then is “Soundtrack” where you can view the tracklist for the movie’s soundtrack.
There’s also a Facebook page for the movie that contains photos, links to news stories about the movie and videos of the cast at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nada. Not surprising, but still nothing.
Media and Publicity
Most of the publicity for the movie was generated by its appearance, as noted before, at the Sundance Film Festival and its eventual pick-up for distribution by Strand Releasing.
Aside from those two points, as well as the release of marketing materials and such over time, there wasn’t really much. Which means this is one of those movies that might be flying under just about everyone’s radar.
It’s a nice little campaign for a quirky romance that’s getting limited release. That sounds like a lot of qualification of the basic assessment but it’s necessary to put the campaign in that context. It’s not knocking my socks off or anything, but there’s a nice consistency to the branding that I think works in its favor strongly.
There are problems with each component that I can see but I do also think that for the target audience the movie is likely to be trying to reach it does a good job of speaking to them. If you’re a fan of small bands, Thai food menus (that’s very much not me) and other things that are unique to the New York City single/dating life this campaign is going to look like a mirror.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
- 10/8/09: A nice profile piece (Los Angeles Times 10/8/09) of lead actress Jess Wexler and her career to date accompanies the film’s initial limited release.