Movie Marketing Madness: Cyrus

You ever walk into someone’s house and think how it smells so uniquely “them?” And then you think how that’s odd since your house doesn’t have any smell like that but then realize that, yeah, it probably does but you live there and so it’s normal to you whereas someone coming in from elsewhere thinks it smells unique to your family? Every family has its own unique dynamic and that smell to their home is just one part of that.

Sometimes that dynamic is even more odd than usual and can even impede how potential new members – say, a suitor to a single parent – is able to become part of that existing family unit. That’s exactly the plot of Cyrus, the new movie from the writing/directing brothers Mark and Jay Duplass. John (John C. Reilly), a divorcee who has trouble not being a complete spaz in social situations, meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom whose grown son Cyrus (Jonah Hill) still lives at home and who she still coddles because he’s a bit awkward. Not only does the relationship between Cyrus and Molly appear to John to be a bit odd but Cyrus also appears to be actively trying to get rid of John, seeing him as a threat to the attention from his mother that he’s currently the sole recipient of.

The Posters

The movie’s poster is a simple one. Reilly, Tomei and Hill are all right there and it’s clear Reilly is the one intruding into an established relationship. Hill looks smug and satisfied being held by his mother and Reilly just looks annoyed. That conflict is exemplified by the copy just above the title that the romance is going to get complicated with the third wheel of Hill’s character. Other than that the primary elements are the two festival badges, one from SXSW and one from Sundance, that give the movie the credibility installed by those appearances.

The Trailers

The trailer, which debuted right around the time of the Sundace premiere, opens up by introducing us to John, Reilly’s character, and just how much of a social misfit he is. We see him primarily at a party where he very unsuccessfully tries to hit on various women who are there. Eventually, though, he starts talking to Tomei, who he can’t believe is flirting with him when he, as he says, looks like Shrek. But at about the half way point things take a turn when we meet Cyrus, her grown son who still lives with her. Cyrus and John soon find themselves in conflict as the one is unwilling to let go of the special relationship he has with his mother and the other is unwilling to let go of the romantic relationship that’s just being formed.

While the stars are bigger in this movie the vibe is still very improv, befitting the roots of the filmmakers. So there’s a loose feeling to the spot that likely only heightens the uncomfortable feelings that the story and characters are likely to create.


Coming from Fox Searchlight it’s not a surprise that the movie’s official website is a classy if minimal affair.

The site’s main page has a bevy of information about the film, including a section where you can find quotes – with links – to some of the movie’s early reviews and other press coverage, a photo gallery, a variety of videos and a schedule of release so you can find out when the movie’s playing near you.

From the top Menu, the first section is “About,” which has an outline of the movie’s story that comes complete with pictures of the main characters so you can easily see who’s who.

“Cast and Crew” has some of the most interestingly-written profiles of the actors and creators that I’ve seen on a movie website. It’s standard stuff but it’s well written and that makes all the difference.

There are three “Videos” in that section, the trailer and two extended clips. Then there are 12 stills from the movie under the “Gallery” section.

Most all of the individual bits of content on the site – videos, news stories and much else – have buttons alongside them that allow the reader to easily share what they’re checking out on Twitter or Facebook.

Searchlight’s Twitter and Facebook pages have been turned over to Cyrus-specific updates as well, making sure followers there were up to date on the cast’s promotional appearances and other information.

Given that the movie shares a name with that of a certain pop princess, the marketing team decided to clear up any confusion – and have a little fun – by creating a site called Not Miley Cyrus. It’s a goofy site that is clearly modeled on YTMND to a large extent and all the links you see on the page have some sort of music and dialogue along with a couple hidden goodies for those patient enough to do a lot of clicking.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was at least one TV spot created for the movie. The commercial, which came out right around the same time Get Him to the Greek was being released, focuses largely on Hill’s character and his very awkward relationship with his mom. It starts with Reilly talking about how a guy like him shouldn’t be with a woman as beautiful as Tomei but then it’s mostly Hill glaring and asking wholly inappropriate questions, as well as him going to bathroom while Tomei is taking a shower.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s appearance at Sundance is where much of the word of mouth was kicked off, mostly around the Duplass brothers and their first excursion into more mainstream filmmaking and the trailer. That was built on a couple months later when it appeared at SXSW.

The fact that the Duplass brothers were coming from such humble, so to speak, beginnings became the predominant theme of the press from there on out, with stories about how they were overwhelmed by the scale of what they had gotten in to (New York Times, 6/13/10), how it was a much different experience working with a larger studio (Filmmaker Magazine, 6/10/10) and how they still worked to make the movie in their own style despite the brighter spotlight being shone on them (Los Angeles Times, 6/13/10).

Fox also got a bit of buzz going by launching a fun publicity campaign revolving around one of Hill’s lines from the movie, specifically “Don’t f**k my mom.”


It’s an alright campaign that seems to know the key to success will be to get people talking about the movie, whether in regard to the Duplass brothers new level of success, the odd turn by Hill or anything else. If people are talking about it then it will likely turn out well. Regardless of how each aspect of the formal marketing succeeds or doesn’t – and most all of them do, particularly the trailer, which works in that “I can’t watch because it’s so uncomfortable but I want to watch because it’s funny” way – the campaign is a success because it got people talking about it, which is essential to the success of a movie like this.