Rachel Weisz stars as the title character in My Cousin Rachel, coming out this weekend in limited release from Fox Searchlight. Rachel is a woman who is thought by her cousin Philip (Sam Claflin) to have murdered or in some manner killed his benefactor, who was under her care. Philip sets out to exact revenge on her as she plans to come to the house he’s at.
His plans begin to go sideways, though, when he finds himself not only succumbing to her seductive powers and believing that she was the wronged party. That puts him in conflict with others around him but he’s increasingly convinced of his love for Rachel, even as he himself seems to be descending further into the same madness as the person whose death Philip originally set out to avenge.
Weisz is, of course, the central figure on the poster. She’s shown staring cooly at the camera, the look on her face slightly disturbing but also completely in control. Her face is covered by the black lace veil of mourning but she doesn’t look said, more like someone who’s plotting her next move.
As the first trailer opens we hear from Philip, who’s reading a letter that’s been sent to him about the pain and suffering apparently caused by Rachel. Philip vows revenge and so goes to enact his plan. After some time, though, he falls under her spell and starts to not only develop feelings and empathy for her but in some ways question the reality around him. He becomes a bit obsessed even as she insists on her freedom. It all seems to revolve around the tea she prepares for him regularly, which may be what keeps pushing him into madness.
It’s a pretty effective spot, selling the movie as a gothic mystery. It does go out of its way to make it clear the tea is tied to her plans and his madness in some way, which is either a bit of misdirection or a huge spoiler reveal. Weisz, as always, looks great as she gives a measured and creepy performance. Some good old fashioned horror here.
Online and Social
The “Cast” option in the menu at the top is a drop down letting you select any of the major players and see a photo from the movie along with a quote from that actor about who their character is. Same for “Filmmakers,” but the only option there is director Roger Michell.
“Story” just has a simple, one paragraph synopsis of the story that doesn’t really offer any additional detail. There are just three stills in the “Photos” section and just the trailer in “Videos.” Finally, “Social” has a few pictures that it wants you to share on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one emphasize the quest for vengeance against Rachel that is being engaged in and what that might mean in the long run. It’s heavy on atmosphere and threatening overtures but doesn’t dive too deeply into the story, just showing the gothic setting and the drama on display.
Media and Publicity
Outside of a few stories about production and coverage of the marketing materials that were released there doesn’t appear to have been a major press push for the movie. A few comments from Weisz and Claflin here and there, but nothing concerted that was meant to deliver earned media coverage.
It’s kind of odd to find a campaign, especially for a movie of this size, where there was more paid than earned media activity. Usually these smaller limited releases depend more on press, even smaller, niche film fan media, to get the word out and stoke some interest in it than advertising. I’m not sure where the bevy of TV spots – at least three or four seem to have been released by Searchlight – were run, but that’s a heavy ad load for a period story like this without a Hemsworth starring.
As for the tone and feel of the campaign, it’s nicely consistent from one element to the next. It’s all about setting that dark tone full of blacks and oranges, all centered around a story that mixes Jane Austin-esque settings with a psychological drama about not being able to trust your own senses. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but the marketing makes an effort to reach an audience who’s looking for something a little darker and potentially sexier than superheroes and kids films.