We rely greatly on certain people to open doors for us to new opportunities and adventures. Many of us are unable to make certain things happen so we turn to family, friends or others to give us access to chances and situations we may not have otherwise had. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s smart work to take every opening that’s available if or when you’re going after a goal or, quite frankly, if you just need a change of pace. A new setting, either personal or professional, can be a life-changer and the people we know can help make that happen.
In Cafe Society, the new film from writer/director Woody Allen, just that sort of change of scenery is what starts off the story and drives things forward. Jesse Eisenberg plays Bobby, a young New Yorker who’s sent out west to spend time with his uncle (Steve Carell), a powerful Hollywood talent agent. While there he falls in love with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). But Bobby is soon heading back to New York, where he dives in deeply to the society nightclub scene, encountering one romantic and other situation after another.
Well, that’s certainly a Woody Allen movie poster. The primary image is a very Art Deco-style drawing of young woman in a 20s-era black dress with a single tear running down her cheek. At the top is the copy “Anyone who is anyone…” followed by the cast list in Allen’s trademark alphabetical order and then lower on the poster that’s continued with “Will be seen by” and then the title treatment. I’ll take minor issue with how I would have preferred if the second part of that had been “…will be seen at” like it was continuing the sentence, but…No, that’s a legitimate criticism. If you’re going to commit to a conceit, go all-in on it.
The first official trailer – there had been an international version a bit before that – starts off at a swanky Hollywood party where Phil is informed his nephew Bobby is coming out to visit. He’s introduced to Phil’s assistant Bonnie, with whom he’ll keep flirting, though he’s surrounded by a host of other beautiful women. He gets involved in his brother’s illicit dealings and otherwise gets swept up in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, all while very much being a fish out of water.
The trailer certainly takes a tone that will be familiar to anyone who’s seen previous Allen movies in the past. It sells the movie as a light, fizzy concoction of romance and comedy. The only real problem is that Eisenberg is, as most leads tend to do, doing a weak Woody Allen impersonation, though to his credit it’s better than Jason Biggs’ attempt.
Online and Social
When you load the official website you immediately get to rewatch the trailer, which is still pretty good.
After that the first section of content is “Story,” where you can read a very short synopsis of the story that offers very few details about what’s going on. The “Cast” section has big glamour shots of the actors involved that let you select them by their real name, then displays their character name but offers no other details about either the actor or character. There’s also a final slide about the Filmmakers, including Allen, but again there’s no further detail here.
Skip over the “Trailer” and next up is the “Gallery” where you can view a handful of stills as well as a single behind-the-scenes shot.
Finally there are links to “Get the Soundtrack,” which takes you to the Amazon listing for the album, and “Buy Tickets.”
The movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles are alright, filled with the usual sorts of promotional images, trailers and other video and more that are on most movie profiles. Twitter has RTs of media promoting cast appearances, but even that’s by the books more or less.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A few TV spots were run like this one that were literally shortened versions of the trailer, with the same sequence of shots, dialogue and overall flow, just packed down into 30 seconds. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, since it’s still easy to get the overall vibe and idea of the movie in that running time.
Online ads used the key art to drive people to buy tickets.
Media and Publicity
Outside of casting the first news about the at-the-time still-untitled movie came when Amazon announced it had picked it up for a mixed theatrical/on-demand release which it would eventually partner with Lionsgate on. There was another bump in publicity when it was announced the movie would open the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
Just before that screening Allen sat down for a wide-ranging interview here he talked about his personal life (of course), how he doesn’t watch his movies after he makes them, how he had to reshoot some scenes from the movie and lots more. A few items revolving around his personal life were pulled out by other media, increasing the reach of this story far beyond what it otherwise would have been.
While at Cannes Allen had lots to say, including how he’d seen very little of Stewart’s previous work before she nailed the audition. At the same time, Ronan Farrow wrote a damning op-ed that addressed the way the press routinely brushed past allegations that are leveled against Allen, something that was kind of proven out when no one brought up the column at the Cannes presser. Stewart talked about the movie as well while there.
Stewart and Lively did the talk show rounds as well, usually to promote both this and one of the other movies they’ve had released recently.
As has been the case for a decade or more, your tolerance for and reception to this campaign is going to be heavily colored by your opinion and thoughts of and on Allen himself. If you can’t get past the personal issues of the writer/director (and I’m not making light of things by saying that) then you won’t be on board no matter how well constructed the campaign is. It will be dead on arrival. Even if the director’s name appeared nowhere in the marketing it’s easy to tell, just by the vibe of the dialogue, that this is an Allen joint, so removing it wouldn’t change a darn thing. It’s still stamped as his.
Outside of all that – and again, I’m not dismissing out of hand the issues people have with him – this is a solid campaign for a mid-level release that’s getting a theatrical run ahead of hitting Amazon Prime Video. Eisenberg can play intense very well, but he turns on the loose charm here as a young man making his way in a world he’s a bit out of his depth in and it’s easy to get a sense of the story from the trailers and other assets. If you enjoy stories set in Hollywood’s golden age and don’t have unmanageable issues with Allen, you should be on board for this one, which looks to walk the line between “funny” and “serious” Woody.