“Gallows humor” sometimes gets an unfair knock. Someone’s decision to laugh in the face of hardship or even their own mortality is sometimes seen as a sigh that they don’t really get the seriousness of a situation or are making light of something that really shouldn’t be laughed at. Most often reality is far from that, with the decision to laugh at a situation an indicator that they actually *do* understand how serious that situation is but have chosen to bear that burden lightly instead of being weighed down by it.
That ability to laugh at a situation as a way to deal with it is at the core of the new movie 50/50. Written by Will Reiser the movie is more or less about him and the diagnosis of cancer he received while still in his 20s when he was given even odds that he would or would not beat the disease. Starring as Reiser’s stand-in is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with Seth Rogen playing the friend who helps him deal with this new situation in life. The movie also features Anna Kendrick as Reiser’s comely young therapist who he develops a crush on and the whole thing is basically Reiser working out a good cathartic rage-filled laugh at his life and the situation he found himself in.
The first – and only – poster for the movie was basically a repurposed still of a shot that was glimpsed in the trailer released well before this. It shows Gordon-Levitt shaving his head in the mirror while Rogen stands behind him with a slightly weirded-out look on his face. The copy “It takes a pair to beat the odds” is well aware of how clever it is, referring both to the pair of friends that will stick together as one goes through his illness as well as to a portion of the male anatomy that’s usually associated with fortitude and bravery. Pretty simple but nicely done.
When the movie’s first trailer debuted on Apple’s Trailers site it was preceded by an introduction from Rogen, Goldberg and Reiser that explained what the movie was about and what the title meant. Considering the changes that had taken place with that title and the generic nature of what was finally picked this was both funny and useful.
The trailer itself starts out showing Reiser shaving his own head, something he’s doing as a way to cope with his diagnosis of cancer. We see him throughout the trailer try various ways of coming to terms with his situation and deal with it in the best way he can. He’s in therapy with a lovely young therapist and has a friend who’s encouraging him to look on the bright side of his situation.
A blow by blow description of the trailer is kind of pointless since it doesn’t do justice to just how good it is. It’s funny and poignant and gives off a very real and understandable vibe. The interplay between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen is fantastic and while there are some things that you can probably predict about the story based on what’s shown here it also promises a whole lot more in terms of genuine laughs and other emotions.
The second trailer is just as good, showing more of the interplay between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen, most of which is the latter encouraging the former. We get a lot of the same scenes we saw in the first one but they’re rearranged a bit with a few new shots added in. So it winds up working just as well, though in a slightly different way than the first one did because it’s more concerned with some of the relationship comedy and less about the pathos.
The movie’s official website opens with a lot going on right on the front page. There’s a rotating series of images accompanied by quotes from critics behind the trailer that starts playing. Above that is a stream of Twitter updates from people about the movie along with encouragement to use the #beattheodds tag to “join the conversation” about the movie and its story.
The first sort of traditional section is the “Story” where there’s a very nice write up of the film’s plot as well as the story of how it was conceived and written.
“Videos” has both Trailers as well as a clip from the film called the “50/50 Conversation” and a “Cast and Writer Chat” that allows some of the folks involved to talk a little bit about making it.
Finally the “Gallery” has six stills in it featuring the main cast.
There’s also a link below all that to watch restricted clips on YouTube and then one more to find out, using Facebook of course, who you’re go-to friend is.
Speaking of Facebook, the official page for the movie has lots of video and updates about news from the film and questions to the audience about how or when they beat the odds or other things along those lines.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one start off by setting up the cancer story but then mostly sold the movie as a Seth Rogen comedy with him reacting to all sorts of situation in big and outrageous ways. It then comes back around to the cancer story but still with heavy Rogen overtones.
Some online advertising was done as well that used the same image of Rogen and Gordon-Levitt as the latter is shaving his head or used headshots of all the main cast members.
Media and Publicity
The movie was included on a list of those that would debut (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.
Much of the pre-release publicity focused on how Reiser was writing what he knew about (LAT, 8/27/11) as he put together the script for the movie and dealt with the problems facing him with the support of Rogen and other friends, who urged him to write about what he was going through.
More press was earned around the time of its Toronto Film Festival debut, where it was one of many films (LAT, 9/7/11) to seek out the refined audience and awards expectations that accompany movies shown there. That strategy seems to have worked, with reports of a standing ovation (LAT 9/12/11) after its first showing.
I don’t think there’s any question that the best part of the campaign is the trailers. While everything else is still pretty good it’s there that the beats – both dramatic and comedic – really come through. There’s a slight risk that this is being oversold as a Rogen vehicle when that might not be fully the case but since downplaying that angle has been a major effort of the publicity campaign but it’s also something the studio might be counting on to get people in to the theaters.