“Late life reinvention” is a pretty common movie trope. It’s a subset of the fish-out-of water idea along with “Adult returns to their childhood home town and rediscovers her/himself” and other story outlines that allow for an easy character arc. The LLR framework allows for the storyteller to put an older character who otherwise should be settled into his or her life through some sort of arc as they learn something new and inevitably teach those around them something new as well. Not saying there’s anything wrong with this, but it’s familiar ground.
Into that subgenre comes The Intern. Robert DeNiro plays Ben, a retiree who, after a long and successful working life, has hit his limit of not being productive. So he applies to be a “senior intern” at an up-and-coming fashion website started and run by Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway. His buttoned-down style, of course, isn’t a great fit with the sweatpants and snapback start-up culture, but of course everyone is going to learn to get along and find that everyone has something to teach and a lesson to learn.
There’s only the one poster and it’s…alright. DeNiro and Hathaway are side-by-side and walking toward the camera, him looking very dapper in a blue suit and her looking very stylish in a red dress. It’s odd that she’s looking directly at the camera while he’s looking just slightly off to what would be his left. But the overall point being made by this image is that they are partners, at least to some extent, and both look pretty happy with how things have turned out. Overlaid on them is the tagline “Experience never gets old,” which nicely sums up the movie’s plot.
The target audience for the movie is made clear by the entire rest of the poster elements. The name of the director, Nancy Meyers, is right there below the tagline and below the title treatment are some of her credits, which include Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday and It’s Complicated, most of which – and this isn’t a value judgement, it’s just a statement of fact – appeal to an older audience. They’re what someone once termed “copper pot above the kitchen island” movies, mostly about older characters who still want to feel young. These movies are pretty successful with that demographic, so it makes sense that the studio would want to highlight this filmography.
The first trailer introduces to Ben as he’s in the middle of a job interview, which gets us immediately into a “Ben is old” joke. He gets into the office routine and meets everyone, a process that highlights the difference between his old-school business style and the untucked nature of everyone else there. He bonds with Jules as the two spend more time together. Then we see Jules is having her own problems as her inexperience running a company is creating issues for investors. But Ben is there to keep her propped up emotionally.
It’s a pretty good trailer that makes it clear that this is as safe as possible for anyone looking for some decent, predictable laughs…or at least smirks. Most of the humor, this trailer suggests, will come from jokes about DeNiro’s age. And much of the pathos will come from Hathaway’s struggles to keep her company not only afloat but also under her own control.
The second trailer spends a bit more time showing Ben’s life before becoming an intern, which he says is kind of empty and in need of a new challenge. The scenes of him and Jules meeting are a bit more extended here before it shifts to him giving some much-needed life advice to the young hipsters in the office, which then leads into more of Ben helping Jules feel the confidence to face her work challenges with courage.
There are a lot of the same scenes from the first trailer and it works about as well and for many of the same reasons, not changing the overall taste just adding a few new elements here and there.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website appears to be built on Tumblr and opens with a takeover by the second trailer. Once you close that you get a nicely Photoshopped image of DeNiro and Hathaway starring at each other across an open computer. You can open the menu by clicking the icon in the upper left-hand corner.
The first section is “Videos,” which just has the two trailers. The “Gallery” has about 10 stills from the movie, none of which can be downloaded as image files because we apparently still think that’s actually a thing we need to worry about. The “About” section has a decent write-up of the movie’s story along with the credits of the principal players involved on both sides of the camera. You can grab the poster, some banners and the stand-alone title treatment in “Downloads.” If you click on the title treatment that’s under the “Worldwide Release Dates” section you’re presented with a number of promotional images and banners that you are encouraged to share to various social networks to, presumably, signal to your friends that you’re really looking forward to this movie.
Moving off-domain, the movie’s Facebook page is a nice collection of links to press stories, plenty of those shareable social media graphics that are found on the site and more. They liberally participated in internet trends like #MCM, #WCW, #TBT and so on, which never works for brands as well as they probably think it does.
The Instagram profile has a lot of the same material, just without the press stories for obvious reasons as well as photos from the movie’s premiere. The Twitter page has, again, lots of the same posts as well as plenty of Retweets of the cast and crew as they made the press rounds and otherwise discussed and promoted the movie. And the Google+ page is virtually identical to Facebook.
There was a lot of activity on the movie’s Pinterest profile. That ranged from the same sort of behind-the-scenes photos, promotional images and so on found elsewhere to a much more fleshed-out board of “Editorial,” which in this case means covers and other photos from publicity shoots by Hathaway in particular.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The TV spots that were run for the movie hit many of the same beats as the trailers, focusing on Ben’s fish-out-of-water story in the startup culture. They’re both pleasant enough and give the audience enough of an idea of the movie’s story to lure interest, I’m sure.
Those and other TV ads were in steady enough rotation to put the movie on the list of top TV spenders this past week (Variety, 9/20/15).
I also saw plenty of pre-roll ads on YouTube, promoted posts on Twitter and so on for the movie.
The only promotional partner I found for the movie was One Kings Lane, which set up a shop where people could buy the same items that were used to decorate the set of the office where much of the action is set. That’s kind of cool, but I have to laugh at the idea of the set designers trying to create the proto-typical startup office for some reason. Reminds me of the early ‘90s when we would joke about the “coffee shop in a box” as every new store had the same kind of artwork, the same seven scones and the same 12 chairs.
Media and Publicity
Anne Hathaway seems to have been the center of the publicity campaign, which isn’t all that surprising. Not only is Jules, her character, the one around whom most of the action hinges but making her the primary voice of the movie (along with Meyers) means you get to appeal to a much younger demographic than if DeNiro is out in front. Not that he’s invisible or in hiding here, but it’s clearly Hathaway’s show here.
She was profiled in Glamour UK (9/3/15) in an interview that garnered lots of secondary press since she was quoted as saying she’s feeling as though she’s aging out of Hollywood’s favor, having lost roles to younger actresses. In a Refinery29 profile (9/15) the emphasis seemed to be on making her seem normal and relatable, emphasizing her love of reality TV, football, penchant for dressing like the entire rest of the country (ie jeans and a t-shirt) and so on.
Hathaway and Meyers were both put in the hot seat in an LA Times sit-down interview (9/6/15) where they talked about the characters in the movie as well as sexism in the film industry, why it’s been so long since Meyers last made a movie and more. Then Meyers went solo for an interview (Vulture, 9/11/15) that again touched on industry sexism, the themes that run through her entire filmography, the inspiration for this movie and more. A lot of that also made its way into this New York Times interview (9/20/15).
The set design became a central component of the campaign as well. The One Kings Lane promotion got some press itself (USA Today, 9/19/15) and lifestyle magazine Traditional Home did a whole feature (9/15) on that set design and what inspired the looks of the office set, Jules’ home and other central locations in the movie.
This is a perfectly pleasant campaign, which I’m guessing is representative of the movie as whole. That’s in line with Meyers’ movies as a whole, most of which are pleasant and relatively inoffensive portraits of affluent white America. Everyone’s trying to have it all (whatever “it all” is dependent on the particular movie) and it all turns out pretty well in the end, the audience having enjoyed the equivalent of a Dairy Queen sundae, something you usually enjoy but which you kind of know isn’t the most substantive of snacks.
That’s why it makes sense for the campaign to focus so heavily on Meyers as a brand name and lean on her previous films. The people who say “Oh, I liked It’s Complicated…let’s go see this.” will walk away more or less satisfied, having watched a movie that was likely exactly what they expected it to be. There’s nothing wrong with this. It reaches the intended demographic, it does so effectively and efficiently and will likely deliver on the promise being made.