What am I good at? What are my skills? What is my true calling in life? These are all questions we ask ourselves at regular intervals – anywhere from every five minutes to once every few months – usually when we’re feeling restless or directionless. When you’re frustrated at work or undergoing some sort of major life event you may roll potential answers around your head over and over again. In some cases the answer to “what do we do now” is born of flexibility to do whatever we want. In others it’s thrust upon us as a necessity. Even the most settled and comfortable among us sometimes feel directionless.
The new movie Jack of the Red Hearts is about someone who is trying to find a way out but finds that life has put her exactly where she needed to be, doing just what she was meant to do. AnnaSophia Robb plays Jack, a girl who along with her sister Coke has been through a foster care system that’s not working for them. After escaping their latest situation Coke gets nabbed by a probation officer but Jack escapes, eventually conning her way into a job as a nanny for an autistic girl named Glory. While things go well for a while the good times won’t last as the system eventually catches up with Jack and she has to make a decision that will impact herself, Coke, Glory and everyone around them.
The movie’s one and only poster doesn’t share much about the story, but it does sell a character-driven drama that’s meant to appeal to fans of smaller movies with emotional cores to their stories.
The primary image here is of Taylor Richardson as Glory laying down in a field of grass, only half of her face visible to the camera. Above her is the title treatment, which looks like the kind of font you’d use on a young adult novel, something I’m sure isn’t a coincidence. The movie’s couple of festival appearances are next as you continue upward and at the very top is the cast list. Down at the bottom is a note about this coming from the producers of “Autism” The Musical” that’s meant to prove the movie’s bonafides when it comes to dealing with the subject matter.
It’s good, but the more I think about it the more it’s obvious that yeah, they’re definitely going for a YA book cover vibe here. That’s not a bad thing since it speaks to a big chunk of the target audience but it’s unmistakable that this looks like it should be sitting on the display table at an airport bookstore.
The first trailer is probably just good from a general marketing point of view but is likely to hit those who know and love a person with Autism right in the feels.
It starts out by showing Jack and Coke escaping from their latest foster home and immediately being separated. Jack finds getting custody of her sister isn’t as easy as she hopes it would be. We see her scam her way into the job caring for Glory, something she’s remarkably unqualified to do but which she keeps trying at. Jack keeps at it in an effort to get her sister back and we see her lie is in some form exposed, but not to the point that it impacts her actually working with Glory. Finally it shows that Jack and Glory have formed a real bond and we’re promised an ending full of emotion, where everyone learns a little something.
The trailer really does lay out what looks to be 80% of the story here pretty clearly and unambiguously. That may help sell the movie to people who don’t like to be surprised or who just like to know that the movie is going to be as heartwarming as they’re hoping it will be. But for others it’s essentially a 2:30-long spoiler for most of the major plot points.
Online and Social
The official website opens with a splash page that uses the main elements from the key art, displaying even more of the festival badges than are on the poster.
The first second of content is a “Theater Listing” that shows where the movie is playing this, it’s opening weekend. Obviously that’s a small list since this is a limited opening.
“Synopsis” has a short recap of the plot. “Crew” has just a list of the director and other behind-the-scenes crew with links to their IMDb pages while “Cast” has photos of the main cast with their names and who they play in the movie but, oddly, no similar IMDb links.
Surprisingly, that’s it. There’s no trailer on the site or image gallery or anything else that’s standard issue.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing on either front that I could find.
Media and Publicity
There wasn’t a ton of press here. Janssen made a few appearances on early morning or late night talk shows but that’s about it that I was able to find. I’m sure, though, that there was a whole niche-push to autism support groups to get the word out about the movie. Some of those are promoted on the social networks and it’s easy to assume that this was a targeted push that’s not going to show up in the mainstream press.
It’s a nice little campaign but, as I mentioned, it’s not exactly designed to change anyone’s mind. And it doesn’t look like the press push was broad enough to reach any sort of mass audience. That’s why I’m assuming – hoping is more like it – there was a more targeted push to specific groups who are sure to be interested in the movie to compensate. Sometimes it’s better to go small than go big, depending on the goal of the campaign, whatever product it’s selling. Also, part of the reason the trailer in particular *does* spill so much of the story may very well be to appeal to those niche advocacy groups since they’re going to want to know what they’re getting themselves and their members into.
What campaign there is is good and sells a very emotional movie, particularly for anyone who might be dealing with a special-needs child or family member. It looks earnest, but with a humor that is born mostly of the characters needing to laugh at things as a coping mechanism. This isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off but it seems, based on the marketing, the point is to do something to take away some of the stigma of autism and, if so, it may do that fairly well.