We’ve all gone to see movies based on trailers that turned out to be not entirely true. If you went to see “The Road” after checking out its trailer, for example, you were probably wondering where the hell Charlize Theron went. In the trailer, she looks like one of the main characters. In the movie — SPOILER ALERT! — she’s dead before the opening credits and appears only in flashbacks.
What we all haven’t done is walked out a movie and decided to sue its distributor for misleading us. But that’s exactly what one woman did last week to Filmdistrict, the distributor of the new movie “Drive.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sarah Deming of Michigan has filed suit against Filmdistrict for promoting “Drive” “as very similar to the ‘Fast and Furious,’ or similar, series of movies” when in fact, the suit alleges:
“…”‘Drive’ bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film… having very little driving in the motion picture… ‘Drive’ was a motion picture that substantially contained extreme gratuitous defamatory dehumanizing racism directed against members of the Jewish faith, and thereby promoted criminal violence against members of the Jewish faith.”
It did? I thought the movie was equally violent against members of all faiths — and if you want to be really technical about it, most of the onscreen violence was committed by Jews against characters whose religious affiliations are unclear. But whatever, that’s really not the main issue.
The main issue is the trailer, which Deming argues misled her into believing “Drive” would deliver a similar experience to “The Fast and the Furious” (essentially she’s complaining about the very thing that critics love about the film — namely its romantic, poetic take on the heist genre). Let’s take a look at the trailer in question and see whether it’s misleading. Here it is:
For point of comparison, here’s the trailer to the original “The Fast and the Furious”:
Hard to say that “Drive” sells itself like a “Fast and Furious” movie when you see how a “Fast and Furious” movie sells itself. “TF&TF”‘s trailer has lot more quick cuts, a lot more CGI shots inside engines, and a lot of dudes wearing shirts with no sleeves acting macho. Which brings me to the part of Deming’s lawsuit I really don’t understand, and what I don’t understand about other people complaining that they didn’t like “Drive” because the trailer misled them: the “Drive” trailer is actually too accurate. It may not depict the full scope of the onscreen violence, it may not fully imply how slow certain portions of the film are, but it reveals almost every major details of the plot, including the twist about Carey Mulligan’s character’s husband returning from prison and the major double-cross during the big heist scene. To my eyes, it doesn’t contain any footage that doesn’t appear in the film itself, something you occasionally see in trailers for stuff that undergo significant revision in the editing room. Deming would have a much stronger case if she was suing because she felt like she saw the entire movie in the trailer, because basically she did.
Deming wants her ticket price refunded and the practice of “misleading” Hollywood trailers ended. Here’s the problem: Misleading trailers like the one for “The Road” might be frustrating, and maybe they do sometimes cross the line from fudging the truth to false advertising (“Four out of five doctors agree: ‘Drive’ is a smash-hit!”). But what’s the alternative? Trailers going even further than “Drive” to explain every last detail of what you’re going to see in a movie? Sports movie trailers that show you the last play? Horror movie trailers that reveal the identity of the killer? If the trailer tells you exactly what the movie is and what happens, why even bother going to the movies in the first place?
One of the fundamental pleasures of film is surprise. The day the movies lose that, is the day the movies lose my interest. If I can predict a movie’s ending from its trailer, that’s a bad thing. Maybe not according to Deming, but definitely according to me.