It’s natural to have dreams, to have something we’re aspiring to. We want to write a novel, we want to do something extraordinary or special. What makes the difference is the means to actually work toward, much less achieve, those goals. If you’re working three jobs to make ends meet and send your kids to college you likely don’t have time to write the novel you’ve been noodling with for the last five years. But if you’re lucky enough to have the means to pursue an idea that you feel will define you and change your circumstances, you’re truly blessed since achieving those dreams becomes that much easier.
Florence Foster Jenkins is very much about the latter. Based on a true story, Meryll Streep plays the title character, a wealthy New York woman who has long dreamt of being a famous musician and singer. The only problem is she has a terrible singing voice. That doesn’t deter her and isn’t a problem for her husband (Hugh Grant), who encourages her at every turn and does whatever he can to further her ambition. After a series of circumstances and events it’s arranged for Jenkins to perform at Carnegie Hall, which may either be her crowning achievement or a disaster that crushes her and those around her.
The poster sells the stars and little else. Streep and Grant are both named at the top and featured there in the middle of the one-sheet, with Helberg on the other side partially obscured by a bouquet of flowers. Copy at the bottom tells the audience this is “The inspiring true story of the world’s worst singer.” So it’s clear this is being sold for the laughs and not because of some deep-seeded emotional drama, though there are elements of that in the trailer.
There had been some UK-centric trailers before this one, but the first U.S. trailer starts out by introducing us to Madam Florence, who has more enthusiasm for singing than she may have talent. Her husband, though, is supportive then entire way. We get some exposition that she’s a lifelong music lover with frustrated ambitions of her own. A pianist and vocal coach who are brought in try to help her improve in time for a performance that’s been arranged at Carnegie Hall. We see her team works to keep bad reviews out of her awareness but still have trepidations about enabling her, though ultimately the show goes on as planned.
It’s not bad. It doesn’t exactly look like Oscar bait but Streep and Grant – and Helberg – appear to give decent performances in a story that’s more about the comedy than anything else. At least that’s the impression I get from the trailer. It’s hard to view this as a hard-hitting story of someone defying the odds since it’s actually “rich white woman gets her way because her husband buys her a chance to fulfill a ludicrous dream.”
Online and Social
The official website follows the unfortunate trend of being almost completely devoid of content and information. There’s a big version of the key art that’s used as the background on the site, but the only material that’s there is a prompt to watch the trailer or to enter a contest, the prize being a chance to sing at Carnegie Hall.
So with nothing on the main site it’s off to social networks. On Facebook the studio has been sharing lots of bright and colorful promotional images celebrating both the actors and the people they’re playing along with news stories about the movie. The same kind of content can be found on Twitter and Instagram, with the last one just not featuring the links elsewhere.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one ran that played up the whimsical, fun aspects of the story, showing Jenkins as someone who’s a bit delusional about her talent, sure, but the enjoyment is supposed to be in the journey of her and those around her. It’s all played very light and breezy, not serious at all, which may be because audiences usually expect more more dramatic fare from Streep.
Not aware of any online advertising at this time but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out key art and some of the video assets have been used for this purpose. Nor would I be shocked to see outdoor ads that show off Streep, Grant and Helberg.
Media and Publicity
Streep and Frears talked here about the movie and why they wanted to tell this story, which also featured others who knew the real story and shared Jenkins’ real struggle and efforts. She talked elsewhere as well and Grant also made the press rounds to talk about his character and the story as a whole.
Helberg even got his own feature story where he talked about fame and what it’s like being in a profession that’s constantly being critiqued and judged along with others who are part of the system.
Unsurprisingly, this is being sold as the Meryl Streep show. This is a story most everyone, I’m guessing, doesn’t know about. That coupled with the fact that it’s not exactly a rags-to-riches story or one about a disadvantaged underdog bucking the system to achieve glory and the main hook you’re left with is one focused on the biggest, most bankable star in the movie. That’s Streep. That’s not to say others, Grant in particular, aren’t part of the campaign but their roles are obviously of the supporting variety.
All that aside, it’s a solid, consistent campaign for a movie that instantly shot to the top of your parent’s To See Soon List. It’s hard to see this generating much interest in the under-45 age group outside of a few individuals who are big Streep fans. My guess, though, is that’s fine and the older crowd of white people might be enough to turn it into a modest hit. The marketing promises the audience won’t be challenged at all but instead be taken for a moderately enjoyable ride on a story that is charming and slight. You know, like a super hero movie but with some Oscar aspirations.