Conventional wisdom, at least in much of the “flyover country” that exists between New York and California, holds that there are few things in this world more vain and full of themselves than an actor, particularly a movie star. They are, in many cases, held up as the perfect example of someone who’s so entitled and out of touch with the problems of common folk when a straw man or imagined foil is needed in order to make some sort of point. While not at all fair and certainly not always the case, many don’t help change this with their tabloid exploits and lifestyles that seem to be taken straight from some sort of a How To Be a Hedonist manual.
The story of one such pampered and out of touch actor is the core of Somewhere, the new movie from director Sofia Coppola. The movie tells the story of Johnny (Stephen Dorff), a movie star who lives out of the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood. His life of girls and drugs hits a speed-bump when his 11-year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) appears at the hotel and is looking to reconnect with her father, a journey that forces Johnny to reevaluate what he’s doing with his life.
The one-sheet for the movie looks very much like a book cover with the lush greenery in back of the title treatment, Coppola’s name and her credits below that very much in the way an author’s name would appear. Can’t get this idea out of my head.
Aside from that, the poster does a decent job of setting the location – an upscale lavish hotel – but doesn’t do that great a job of introducing the characters. The woman to the left of Dorff could be his girlfriend for all we know and not his 11-year old daughter, which it actually is.
But it is a gorgeous poster, so it has that going for it.
It’s all about setting a mood with this trailer.
We are shown Dorff’s character, a movie star whose current life we’re introduced to with shots of him posing for a promotional picture, sitting beneath a plaster mold and enjoying the hedonistic pleasures of women that come with the fame he apparently has achieved. But then the first bit of dialogue comes when a young girl, Fanning, says, “Hi Dad.” The only other words spoken are by Dorff on the phone when he asks the girl’s mother when she’s coming back to reclaim their daughter.
Much of the second half of the trailer shows Dorff’s character trying to be a good father, taking his daughter to award shows, playing Rock Band and otherwise bonding. So it’s clear the journey here is Dorff’s, who must learn how to balance the life he’s come to expect with the responsibilities of being a father.
The end of the trailer makes a point of promoting that the film’s music comes from currently hot band Phoenix as a way to continue establishing Coppola’s hipster filmmaking credentials.
Somewhere’s official website starts off with a recreation of the poster key art at the top of the page, with prompts to watch the trailer or find a theater along with a rotating series of quotes from early reviews of the film.
Below that are lots of content areas but all of that is also found in the menu items which are more easily navigable so that’s where we’ll focus our attention.
“Story” has an overview of the movie’s plot and introduces us to both the characters and how they’re going to move through the story as well as, of course, mentioning all the producers and other folks involved in making the movie. Those folks, both the actors and the behind-the-scenes filmmakers, are given short profiles in the “Cast & Crew” section.
“Video” has the film’s Trailer, a Featurette and a handful of extended clips from the movie. Then there are about a dozen stills in “Photos,” most of which are taken from the film itself but also including a couple of Coppola behind the camera.
As is the case on most sites for movies from Focus Features, the “Featured” section has a great amount of editorial content that profiles the stars and director, covers the movie’s premieres and otherwise provides a lot more context and information about the movie and those who made it.
There’s a great round-up of the movie’s publicity and news coverage in the “News” section, which is basically a blog.
Finally, “Awards” highlights what accolades the movie has accumulated or at least been nominated for.
The Facebook page for the film has the usual stream of publicity and marketing centered updates as well as some video and photos.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I don’t think there’s been anything TV-wise but there may have been some online advertising that I’ve seen.
Media and Publicity
The movie got a big press boost when it was announced as one of the official selections of the 2010 Venice Film Festival, giving the film a big international stage on which to debut its hip awareness. At about the same time it showed up at the Telluride Film Festival, an appearance that game the movie some positive word-of-mouth right out of the gate. But reactions were mixed, with an overview of Venice (New York Times, 9/9/10) saying the movie winds up being colder than some of Coppola’s past efforts. Even so it wound up taking the top prize at that festival, trumping some other high-profile films.
Closer to release there were stories such as this one (Los Angeles Times, 10/31/10) about how the film was shot at the hotel it’s based in and how that location was an essential story element, one the actors and crew wound up immersing themselves in. The hotel was the subject of other stories (NYT, 12/5/10) as well throughout the ramping of the film’s press coverage.
Then there were overviews of Coppola’s directorial career to date (NYT, 12/12/10) and this latest movie’s place in what can now, with her fourth film, be called a body of work. That piece takes a very generous view of her filmography, presenting the points of views of both her champions and critics who either latch on to what she’s trying to say or dismiss it for (to me) the wrong reasons. Coppola also was interviewed (LAT, 12/20/10) on how the movie wasn’t autobiographical but was about how she’s seen dynamics play out in Hollywood families
Elle Fanning was also given her own profile (NYT, 12/12/10) at the same time that focuses on how the actress has grown out of her older sister’s shadow and become a talented actor in her own right.
I like this campaign, but I’m a fan of Coppola’s previous films and so am predisposed to be interested in this new one. Let’s be honest, though, and point out that the marketing has almost zero mainstream appeal to it. As I mentioned at the outset, the pervading mindset that young movie stars are a bunch of self-indulgent hedonists isn’t going to help sell a movie that more or less confirms that, even if it does include some touching father/daughter moments. The only way much of middle America would see this movie is if the campaign promised the main character would get some sort of comeuppance as the result of his lifestyle and behavior.
But for fans of either Coppola’s movies or those inclined to seek out movies that have become film festival darlings there’s a lot here to like. Everything is stylish, immaculately lit and promises the audience that does come to see it a movie that presents an interesting character study of the people in a world not many of us have access to. It is very much an example of Coppola following that oldest of writer’s mantras and writing what she knows. So this campaign will work on bringing out those who are interested in seeing her tell that story regardless of any other preconceived stereotypes.