Around this time every year, you can start piecing together what films studios expect to be their big Oscar contender/critical darlings. The more festivals it is scheduled to play, the more faith the studio has. In 2016 films like La La Land and Moonlight hit most of the big festivals, 2017 saw Lady Bird and The Shape of Water flood the screens, and last year saw Roma play all four major precursors. This year, the talk of the town is Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach’s newest heartbreaker about a loving couple whose marriage bitterly falls apart, and the divorce proceedings that follow. And Netflix, ever the one to design an ingenious ad campaign, has really hit the nail on the head promoting this one.
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) have a seemingly perfect marriage. He’s a beloved stage director, while she’s a thriving actress. However, when Nicole sets her mind on returning to the West Coast to act, and Charlie decides to stay in New York to direct, their relationship’s strains finally overwhelm them and tear the marriage apart. Now, armed with teams of cutthroat lawyers (including Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda), the former couple will find their personal and creative lives forever changed, and their son put through a brutal proceeding in the midst of it all.
I’ve been excited about the prospect of this film for quite some time now. Baumbach is a classic 70s-esque humanist director in the vein of Woody Allen, James L. Brooks, and Robert Benton (but without the baggage of the former), and his films always have a painful realism in their approach. If Marriage Story is the masterpiece Venice, Toronto, Telluride, and New York have been promising, this should be a great film. However, what I really want to focus on is the genius of this theatrical campaign. Netflix has chosen to promote the film with two complementary trailers, one from Johansson’s Nicole’s point of view, and one from Driver’s Charlie. The two trailers show similar-ish scenes (although not entirely the same) focused on different aspects, filled with passive-aggressive compliments, before joining halfway through to enjoy the same second-half, involving court and attempts to save the marriage. Each trailer is scored by the same song – “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – but from different artists (Otis Redding for Charlie describing Nicole, and Tina Turner for Nicole describing Charlie). This is…this is just perfect advertising. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me on Marriage Story in the coming weeks – Netflix hasn’t even given it a date yet – but until then, you can watch both trailers below.