How Not to Sell Things

I recently saw a trailer for a show called “Norman.” The trailer was so bad that I looked the movie up afterward, baffled over how something that looked so unpromising had actually gotten a preview slot in a bonafide movie theater. The summary line at the IMDB was even worse than the trailer: “Norman Oppenheimer is a small time operator who befriends a young politician at a low point in his life. Three years later, when the politician becomes an influential world leader, Norman’s life dramatically changes for better and worse.” (If you were lucky enough to miss the trailer it consisted chiefly of Richard Gere fumbling around trying to talk to people who were trying to avoid him.) Of both the trailer and the IMDB description, I have only one question. Why should I care?

It helps not one whit that as far as I, the dictionary, or anyone else I know, defines it, “operator” means someone who runs heavy equipment. And Gere was pointedly not in the seat of a backhoe, crane, or front-loader. (That would probably have made a better movie.) Another internet search suggested he plays a “fixer” — a term I know only from Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” series, and that just muddied the issue more because Richard Gere was no more poised to beat the living snot out of anyone than he was preparing to dig footings. So. What’s it about? (And why should I care?)

After I decided I was going to declare this the worst movie trailer I had ever seen, I went to trouble of finding an article that indicates “Norman” is about international political scandal. (In that case, they must have cherry-picked the most boring parts to cobble together the trailer and then chosen the most bitter intern to write the official description.) The movie may actually be good but you can’t sell even a good thing by making it look that pointless. And if all they can say about political scandal is “watch Norman do things” then whoever is behind this project’s marketing needs to have the snot beaten out of them (if Ray Donovan has a free minute, that is).



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