Filmmakers and Fans Plot to Keep Big Twists a Secret
Note: This story contains minor spoilers for the films The One I Love and Coherence.
Can you keep a secret? Better yet, can you keep a movie’s plot twists secret in the age of social media?
From The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to the upcoming Gone Girl, it’s a challenge faced by many high-concept films these days. For the lower budgeted indie The One I Love — which stars Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss and The League's Mark Duplass and opens this weekend in theaters— that challenge has become an asset.
Already available earlier this month in an under-the-radar, video-on-demand release, the movie tracks a married couple working out relationship issues with the help of a therapist (Ted Danson) who sends them on a “perfect retreat” for the weekend. But you won’t find out much more about the film from its mysterious trailer, which features random snippets of dialogue (“It’s so weird here!”), shots of doors opening and closing, and blurbs comparing the film to the works of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation masterminds Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. If the clip comes off as a bit elusive — well, that’s the point:
At a time when studios tease and prerelease as many images and details about their movies as possible, the opaque marketing campaign for The One I Love might strike some as peculiarly vague. “The reason why we’ve approached releasing the film the way we are is because that’s how we discovered it at Sundance,” explains RADiUS-TWC co-President Tom Quinn, who acquired the film for distribution at the indie showcase. “We hadn’t been bludgeoned to death with information about what it was [about].”
Groundwork for the stealth campaign was laid as far back as January, when the film made its Sundance debut. The festival’s shrewd program guide summary made The One I Love sound like a dime-a-dozen indie relationship drama — when, in fact, it’s a Twilight Zone-indebted bit of brainy sci-fi, complete with a rattling twist. But with the exception of a few stray phrases in the program guide’s description (which pegged the film as “dizzyingly bizarre” and “welcomingly unpredictable”), Sundance attendees were given little warning that the movie they were about to see took some strange turns.
"We felt [that], going into Sundance, our world premiere would be the only screening where people would have a pure watching experience of the movie," remembers The One I Love director Charlie McDowell. “That was the one [screening] where no one really knew anything going in. We always felt that was the best way for people to see the movie.”