Movie Marketing Madness: Complete Unknown

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Reinvention is at the core of the story in Complete Unknown, the new movie starring Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon. Weisz plays Alice…or at least that’s the name she’s going by at the moment. See Alice has a problem settling down and being just one person. So she’s always moving around and changing identities, either out of some intrinsically restless spirit or because she’s just not comfortable in her own skin and is constantly in need of changing the circumstances around her.

The movie follows Alice as she, through a sequence of events, winds up at the birthday party of Tom (Shannon) as he and his wife are about to move away. Tom recognizes Alice, but when he knew her a decade or more ago she was going by another name. She won’t acknowledge this at all but when she leaves the party he tracks her down and the two begin an all-night journey where they question their respective places in life, him his stability and her her wanderlust.

The Posters

The first poster debuted shortly after the film debuted at Sundance and features very little in the way of hints about the story. Instead it just shows a very colorful butterfly in the middle of the poster with the cast list and the tagline “You are who you say you are.” That indicates we’re dealing with a story about identity but that’s about it, though the image itself if beautiful.

The next two posters take the same copy point and but use images of Weisz and Shannon, respectively, each one looking down or off to the side as around mid-torso their bodies start to come apart. On the one with Weisz her body is shattering into fragments like a photo that’s been cut up, which is in line with the character she plays, someone who’s always reinventing her past and who she is. Shannon’s poster, though, shows and its root system deep in the ground as the lower part of his body, indicating that he’s someone who’s more grounded. It’s a nice couple of posters that convey key character elements with some smart visuals.

The Trailers

Alice is explaining as the trailer opens about how we all have moments where we’re a blank slate and can be anything we wish to be. She talks about being anything she wants and living a thousand lives before we cut to her at Tom’s birthday party. When the two are introduced, he’s taken aback, like he’s surprised to see her. It turns out they knew each other in the past, her having disappeared from his life 15 years previously. They begin spending time together, leading to confusion and misunderstandings and it’s unclear why Alice is back or what she hopes to accomplish. At the end, she offers Tom the chance to come with her as she once again seeks to leave her current life and create something new.

It’s really good, showing great performances from Weisz and Shannon and creating a sense of mystery and tension about why Alice is back and how much of a disruption she’s going to be in Tom’s life. It’s not being sold, at least not here, as a thriller though there are certainly elements of that in the mystery of Alice’s behavior. Instead it’s more of a straightforward character drama about expectations, societal roles and other constraints and the people who either live within them or break free from them.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website was built on Tumblr and is pretty barebones, giving the audience just enough information to satisfy some curiosity. If you scroll down the page you’ll see some short videos, photos and other posts. No information, but some countdown images and cinemagraphs and so on.

“Gallery” is the first section in the site’s content menu at the top of the page but that doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s just the link to the home page, so it appears they’re considering all those posts to be the gallery. After that, the “Synopsis” link does actually provide some information, offering a decent write-up of the movie’s story.

The only other sections listed here are “Trailer,” which just takes you to the trailer and “Get Tickets” which opens up the GoWatchIt page for the movie where you can find where the movie is playing or when it will be coming to your area. There are also links to the Facebook and Twitter profiles for the movie, both of which feature the same posts that were on the Tumblr site. Twitter also Retweeted some audience enthusiasm for the movie but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online advertising was done using the key art and video but that’s about it. I would imagine more will roll out that’s targeted to the markets the movie will slowly open in.

Media and Publicity

The movie was scheduled for a premiere at Sundance but before that it was picked up by Amazon, which reportedly was going to also look for a theatrical release partner. Eventually IFC Films came on board to help it get a limited theatrical release before it shows up on Amazon Prime.

Nothing much else going on. No recent stories outside of reviews and coverage of trailers or posters appear to have run, so there’s been no big press push to promote the movie.

Overall

There’s a nice atmosphere that the campaign tries to create. It’s trying to sell the movie as a mix of thriller and drama, though not fully in either genre. The focus is clearly on Weisz’s Alice since she’s the leopard who’s always changing its stripes and so her actions and behavior will be what drives the action and story along.

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.


Originally published at christhilk.com on August 26, 2016.

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