There will likely be no more impressive cast this year than the one populating August: Osage County, the feature film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer- and Tony-award winning play. Meryl Streep! Julia Roberts! Ewan McGregor! Chris Cooper! Benedict “Benny Batch” Cumberbatch! Juliette Lewis! Abigail Breslin! Dermot Mulroney! Margo Martindale! Any marketing exec worth their salt would put those actors front and center in the movie’s first trailer, and that is exactly what the folks at The Weinstein Company have done.
But TWC also seems to be running away from the deliciously dark and poisonous atmosphere that hangs over Letts’ play. To be fair: You do get a sense that Streep’s family matriarch isn’t the most pleasant person; Benny Batch does look like a weepy mess; and the play does have some hilarious moments. But the up-with-people music and preponderance of smiles and laughter makes August: Osage County seem like a heartwarming tale about a family struggling to hold it together — and, by inference, succeeding. Without spoiling what goes down in August: Osage County, heartwarming it is definitely not. (OK, one tiny spoiler: What’s especially odd about this is that there are sequences from the play I am certain would be enticing to many moviegoers — like, why aren’t Meryl and Julia screaming at each other? Everyone wants to see that.)
August: Osage County isn’t arriving in theaters until November, so TWC may just be waiting to unveil the film’s gloomier qualities for a later trailer. But this is far from the first time a feel-bad movie has been sold as the opposite experience. Here are 10 other examples:
3. Blue Valentine
Yeah, there are some tears in this trailer, but all relationship movies have some tears. Most don’t rip your heart from your chest and stomp on it over and over again like Blue Valentine ultimately does. (In a good way.)
If you’re paying very close attention, you’ll see the sinister underbelly of this pitch black comedy lurking in this ironically cheery trailer. But you’ll still have zero idea that one of the main characters is actually a pedophile. Yup.
5. Friends With Kids
What you’re missing from this trailer is any sense at all about how bleak this movie really is about long-term relationships.
6. Young Adult
Charlize Theron is so great and fearless in this flick, but this trailer makes the film look like a cheery, fizzy comedy about a mean girl! IRL: No cheer, no fizz.
7. Where the Wild Things Are
The trailer: Exciting, rollicking adventure about childhood and wild things!
The film: Somber existential meditation about childhood and wild things.
Verrrrrrry different experiences.
This movie isn’t really a comedy; it’s barely even a dramedy. It’s basically a light, rambling drama about a Mexican maid who works for a highly, highly dysfunctional family.
9. The Majestic
So heartwarming, right? Forget about the fact that Carrey’s character is actually a screenwriter being hounded by an anti-Communist witch hunt whose career is in a shambles — that’s not a spoiler, by the way, it’s how the movie begins.
10. The Five-Year Engagement
Yet another romantic comedy that gets dark, but is sold by its studio as an unrelentingly fun and funny time.
11. Love Actually
This one is just half-deceptive. It’s spot on about all the lovely bits in the film about love. But total rubbish about how tragic several of the film’s love stories really are. Laura Linney, I’m especially looking at you! (Unrelated to this post but still worth noting: It spoils the end of the Andrew Lincoln*/Keira Knightley storyline completely!)
*Apologies for getting my Andrews confused!
12. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
The sad ending of the film is pretty well telegraphed in its title. But tell that to these kids:
See: Happy and sad moments. Is that so hard to convey, Disney trailer makers? Are you happy now?!
14. The Shining