Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's okay to laugh during Rabbit Hole

Dead kid movie not getting quite the box office you'd hoped, Lionsgate?

I saw one of the most peculiar attempts at re-branding I've ever seen on Thursday night with the latest TV ad campaign for John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole, starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. The movie is known for the fact that Kidman and Eckhart play the parents of a young boy who died. And among people I've talked with, there's been the pervading sentiment that they didn't want to see "the dead kid movie," even though they knew it was probably quite good.

So the ad I saw on Thursday night emphasizes all the film's lighter moments -- showing Eckhart lifting a child in the air and Kidman laughing, among other heartwarming images.

But the coup de grace is one of the quotes from the ad, which I believe came from a review by Ann Hornaday of

"It's okay to laugh during Rabbit Hole."

Now, I like any critic quotation that doesn't use the same ten glowing words to describe the movie -- vive la difference. But this one just stands out for its awkwardness.

On the one hand, it's accomplishing a couple things that might be very useful to the movie: 1) It's showing that the movie is not unremitting misery from beginning to end, and 2) It's tacitly acknowledging that the movie is, indeed, about a dead child, rather than pretending it's about something else entirely.

However, if you don't interpret the quotation correctly, it almost sounds like the ad is inviting you to laugh at the idea of dead children.

Not good.

And then there's the fact that the ad campaign calls attention to its own agenda -- never a good thing in advertising, which is supposed to manipulate you without you seeing the manipulation. The manipulation comes through loud and clear in this one. If I'm not laughing during the movie, at least I got to laugh at the ad campaign.

I'm sure it's still a good movie. And I'd like to see it, because Nicole Kidman will probably get nominated for an Oscar for it. Even though I've got my own young child at home right now -- a male child at that.

But Rabbit Hole isn't advertising itself for discriminating viewers like me, who don't shy away from content just because I'm not likely to laugh while watching it. So if promising laughter gets a few more butts in the seats, well, I guess that's a good thing, if it's a good movie.

For Rabbit Hole's sake, let's hope this ad campaign doesn't have the opposite effect.

No comments: