I can’t fully imagine the emotional impact losing a child would have on my family and I. It’s the ultimate form of loss and goes against the way God has intended for the world to operate. I can speculate, I can steel myself, I can map out in my mind the things that would have to be done and absorb the lessons of others but all that only goes so far. There’s a whole world of grieving that lies beyond what one can rationally prepare for and the reality of that situation and part of that rational preparedness means understanding that gulf exists.
How a couple deals with their own and each other’s grief is the story of Rabbit Hole. Married couple Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) lose their young son in an accident and have to find ways to go on both as individuals and as a couple. They each find ways of dealing with the pain they’re feeling in secretive and not-so-great ways but ultimately keep coming back to each other to try and find their footing in this new reality.
The movie’s first poster makes it clear that there’s something missing in the character’s lives. An empty tire swing hangs in front of a cloudy, empty sky, the tire itself forming the “O” in the movie’s title with the copy “Love will get you through” within the tire itself. That title is transparent and shows Kidman looking off into the distance very seriously.
It’s a simple but more or less effective poster that not only shows, as I said above, that something is missing but it’s also pretty easy to infer even if you know nothing else about the movie that it’s a child. My guess is that the decision was made to appeal very specifically to a female audience, which is why Eckhart isn’t on the poster and instead it looks like Kidman is going it alone. But that’s betrayed by the copy, which sells the idea that she gets through her loss with the help of a loving husband, or at least that’s what can be assumed. To me it works in its simplicity but when you break down the individual components it becomes rather jumbled in its meanings and appeals.
The second poster put the actors on display in a variation on one of the first publicity stills that were released form the movie. Designed as kind of a flip book of sorts the central image has Kidman seeming to be in…what…the throes of passion with her eyes closed and lips parted. To the left the splintered images of her show a woman deep in grief, though, while on the right hand side we see her being held by Eckhart who in his own image slices is going through his own range of emotions.
It’s a very effective poster that shows off, much as the trailer does, the performances of the two main actors. That’s something that is particularly rare when it comes to poster art. The imagery is helped, for a change, by the copy “The only way out is through,” which hints at the fact that the emotional journey these characters are going on is not an easy one.
The trailer starts out in a parent’s support group, where people are sharing the stories and feelings around the loss of their children. We then see plenty of shots of Kidman and Eckhart dealing with their own anger and frustration about the death of their own boy and going through the motions, including fighting with each other. But the trailer also shows some happy times that the couple has, so it’s apparent the relationship isn’t a lost cause completely.
If you’ve ever had to deal with even the possibility of losing a child the trailer will likely hit square in the teeth. The emotions the characters go through seem all too plausible and realistic and it’s clear the performances by both leads are meant to be on edge and not sugar-coated.
The official website opens by playing the trailer both before and after you “Enter the Site.”
Once you do go ahead and enter the full site the first section that’s available is “Story,” which gives the reader quite a few more plot points than have been shown in the trailer and clears up some of what’s seen there as well.
“Videos” has the trailer as well as as a TV spot that emphasizes Kidman’s performance as well as the movie’s already accumulated awards nominations. “Photos” has nine stills, including one behind the scenes shot.
There are good write-ups of the films cast and crew under “Cast & Crew,” giving us their acting or production backgrounds.
Finally “Gallery” has the movie’s two posters that are available for downloading.
The movie’s Facebook page opens with a message from The Compassionate Friends network, a group that helps parents deal with the grief of losing a child, which is a great way to lead off that part of the online effort. Aside from that there’s the usual mix of updates on promotional activities, photos and videos. The Lionsgate Twitter feed that’s promoted on the official site contains nothing about Rabbit Hole, unfortunately and is instead all about the studio’s other recent release For Colored Girls.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A couple of TV spots were produced that focused primarily both Kidman’s performance and the film’s already-accomplished awards nominations. There are two 30-second spots on the Lionsgate YouTube channel, one that mentions the Spirit Awards nominations and one that has already been put together touting the Golden Globes nods it received just earlier this week.
There may have been some online advertising done but I haven’t seen it. I’m assuming it’s happening since movies like this usually have some form of online ads that run, particularly on sites that cater to independent film audiences.
Media and Publicity
The first bit of publicity for the movie came in the form of a pretty sizable story in The New York Times (8/30/09) about the production of the film and how Kidman turned it into a passion project after initially hearing about the play it’s an adaptation in. That passion extended to personally selecting co-stars and behind-the-scenes, choices she was free to make since she’s also a producer on the movie.
Almost a year later buzz around the movie had been pretty silent. Until, that is, the news it would be appearing at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.
That appearance prompted a number of press stories, mostly interviews with Kidman and Eckhart about how they approached material needing such raw emotions (Los Angeles Times, 9/16/10) and how Kidman, as the driving force behind it, got the movie made (New York Times, 9/15/10) and dealt with the issues that came up during production.
The festival appearance achieved its primary goal as Lionsgate walked out with a distribution deal for the movie.
Even after that much of the press coverage of the film focused on the behind-the-scenes story, with Kidman and Mitchell talking (NYT, 12/12/10) about how they met, the challenges they encountered in making the movie on such a limited budget and more.
This is a great campaign for a movie that deals with very touchy emotional subject matter. The posters actually form a nice pair, with the first dealing with the child that’s missing from the scene and then the second focusing on the relationship between the husband and wife. And the trailer and TV spots work well to put the spotlight on the grieving going on by Kidman’s character.
What’s really in this campaign’s favor is the word-of-mouth that movie’s festival appearances has spurred and advanced. Without that there would simply be no one talking about the movie and many of those who have seen it have become very vocal advocates for it, recommending it on their year-end lists and encouraging people to see it now that it’s finally hitting theaters. That’s the secret sauce that turns this campaign from really to very good.