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Movie Marketing Madness: Being Charlie

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In one way or another, especially when we’re younger, many of our actions are motivated by our parents. We may be doing something because they want us to, don’t want us to, to get their attention in a positive or negative manner or simply because it’s something we’re expected by them to do. In its most positive incarnation, this kind of motivation leads to parental approval and reward, even if we’re just going through the motions to maintain the peace in our house. In a more negative setting we’re acting out because of problems in the family and we want to rile them up in some way, get them screaming so we can embarrass them and knock them off their high horse.

The latter scenario is the basic plot of Being Charlie, the new movie from director Rob Reiner and written by his son Charlie (Nick Robinson), the son of a state governor (Cary Elwes) who loves his son but is determined not to be shamed by him. See Charlie has a bit of a drug habit that often gets him into trouble regularly. Finally he consents to go to rehab because he’s out of options and there meets Eva (Morgan Saylor), who doesn’t help Charlie’s worst tendencies and habits. But Charlie may actually want to make a go of recovery this time and finds some solace and release by doing stand-up comedy,

The Posters

The one poster for the movie is pretty basic, just showing Charlie, who looks a little worse for wear, walking along the side of a road with a mountain in the background. So we can get that Charlie is probably upper-class – he’s wearing a tie and sport coat – and that he might be running away from something. But that’s about it in terms of story hints that are offered. The rest of what’s here is about the talent, specifically the elder Reiner, who’s named twice and referenced in copy that sells the movie as coming “From the director of Stand By Me.” That tells you what spiritual direction the movie is being sold in.

The Trailers

The one trailer opens with Charlie doing a bit of standup, talking about how hard it is to stay sober. We see some of the trouble he gets himself in, stealing oxy from someone’s cabinet and being yelled at by his parents. Eventually he’s persuaded to enter rehab, where he gets involved with Eva, who’s a bad influence, and experiments with stand-up as a form of therapy. Rehab doesn’t completely take and Charlie continues to struggle, butting heads with his father, with the rehab counselor and everyone else.

It’s not a great trailer but it’s also not terrible. It shows the story pretty well and makes the case for an emotional character drama. But it also tries to do a lot and might not hit all the notes it needs to. So it tries to be a drama about both Charlie and those around him and while showing members of the supporting cast is usually a good thing the trailer could have benefitted from a more singular focus on the title character. That’s the biggest hook and a good trailer could have been that much better with a little more narrow perspective.

Online and Social

After scouring the web I couldn’t find a web presence of any sort for the movie. There’s no site that I could discover, not one that’s on its own or in the form of a page off of a distributor site. I couldn’t even find a Facebook page. So that’s a big oversight.

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Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nope, goose eggs here on both counts. Not surprising if there wasn’t even an identifiable website.

Media and Publicity

The movie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, which gave both Reiners an opportunity to talk not just about the elder’s career as a whole but also about how difficult it was to make this movie, which isn’t exactly the kind of thing studios even dabble in these days. He also spoke about working with his son, which was an emotional moment for the father. Star Nick Robinson also talked about how difficult it was to transition to an emotional, character-driven movie shooting in 20 days after coming off of his experience on Jurassic World.

Both Reiners often appeared in joint interviews or at least were given equal treatment as they talked about the real life story that inspired the movie – the younger Reiner struggled with drug problems and was briefly homeless – how it is indeed based loosely on real life and what it was like to work together.

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Overall

Sure, why not. I’m on board. There’s still enough residual goodwill for Rob Reiner running around that I’ll sign up for just about anything he does. The campaign obviously relies heavily on associating itself with his name and reputation, counting on a certain number of people feeling the same way I do, that we’ll give the director of Misery, When Harry Met Sally and Stand By Me a chance to impress us again.

As I said, the marketing plays up an emotional character drama but what it doesn’t seem to do well is setup the stakes for Charlie. We get that he’s going to disappoint his parents if he doesn’t get clean, but there’s never really a sense that he’s in danger because of that. Sure, there’s a shot of him getting thrown out of a car and some speeches from his father but that’s about it. With the lack of other definable hook it would have been more compelling to lean more on what kind of consequences would be if Charlie continues down the dark path and maybe show less of him using comedy as an outlet for his struggles.

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