The biggest problems it has to overcome, it seems are 1) It’s very much a White Guys Problem movie, with an all-white cast complaining about things that only happen to middle-class, relatively comfortable Caucasians and 2) That it doesn’t seem to have much buzz coming into opening week. There’s no one talking about this and that’s not going to do any favors for it in theaters. The familiarity of the subject matter could be contributing to this, making it something that sure, you’ll watch on Netflix when it’s there in a year but it hasn’t made a strong enough case to seek it out.
Thankfully the marketing here doesn’t try to sell the movie as anything other than what it is, which is a long-form walk-and-talk romantic drama. There are a few gags in the trailer that come off as a little wink-winky, like Obama’s response to Michelle asking him if he wants to get into politics, but overall this looks like the kind of low-key romantic movie that Hollywood doesn’t make very often any more. Grounded by a couple performances that don’t veer too far into impressions, it looks like it could charm audiences who check it out and would likely lead to strong word of mouth.
Similar to Ben-Hur last week, which focused almost exclusively on the chariot race, this campaign focuses heavily on the Duran/Leonard fights. It’s understandable since that’s an easy sell to the audience, but my hunch is that much of the movie’s story and drama happens outside the ring as Duran and Arcel navigate their relationship and the politics of the fight business. And much like Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, I’m guessing Usher isn’t in this movie nearly as much as the campaign features him. Let’s see if this connects with audiences at all, especially if that last-minute Hail Mary trailer did anything to move the needle.
In terms of the campaign itself, it’s pretty slight, relying greatly on word of mouth. The trailer sells the movie as an amusing time with a bunch of actors who most of us probably like from other things we’ve seen them on, from “How I Met Your Mother” to “Parks and Rec” to “Parenthood” and everything else. Interestingly the movie is very much being sold as a comedy, if kind of a subdued one, and it doesn’t delve too deeply into selling the dramatic elements. It wants to keep things light and funny, not heavy and serious. It will be interesting to see if that winds up being representative of the movie as a whole.
What might be a little frustrating about the marketing is that it doesn’t give the audience a lot of answers. In fact it might not offer any. Right now the trend with dramatic thrillers like this is to provide the audience with a more or less complete outline of the story, including strong hints as to the ending. This leaves things mostly ambiguous, which is good for providing a strong hook to see the movie – we want to see what happens next – but which may not be comforting enough for a mass audience. Hopefully, though, it will connect with the targeted audience that’s in line with the limited release.