' ' Cinema Romantico: OMG This Pacific Heights Promo

Thursday, August 30, 2018

OMG This Pacific Heights Promo

In considering possible options for our Flashback to the 90s series, we briefly thought about revisiting John Schlesinger’s 1990 thriller “Pacific Heights.” We thought about revisiting it because the film turns on the high price of San Francisco real estate, a very identifiable problem through a modern lens. “(Y)ou can’t make a good thriller,” wrote Owen Gleiberman in his original EW review, “when the most pressing issue is whether the protagonists will have to default on their mortgage payments.” I wondered if that statement would hold up in these salad days before the inevitable sequel to the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Alas, in the end I chose to stipulate that all my Flashback to the 90s entries needed to be first time watches. Still, in doing a little Internet digging on “Pacific Heights” just for old time’s sake, I stumbled across not only Gleiberman’s review but a “Pacific Heights” promotional photo that figuratively stopped me in my tracks and literally made me laugh out loud.

I mean, ye gods, man. Aside from some truly stellar promotional photo work for “Volcano” (1997), this might be my favorite movie promotional photo of all time. 

To start, Melanie Griffith is holding down the photo’s center with a smile that is not as bad as one you’d get at the DMV but confused nonetheless. She’s the star of a dark thriller, but she’s the heroine, and so I guess she thinks — or was instructed — to smile and is, but is not sure if that smile is supposed to hint at the sinister material or say Hi! I’m the star! So, in the end, she has a smile that seems to have recognized someone across the aisle on a transcontinental flight that she does not want to talk to.

Matthew Modine, on the other hand, seems to be taking the film’s tone as promotional gospel and refusing to smile, though his lack of a smile amounts to nothing much more than odd apathy. If you took Keaton out of this photo (and we will get to him shortly) you might think Griffith and Modine were starring in a relationship drama where their marriage was on the rocks. (Then again, if you leave Keaton in the photo and ask Modine to smile then you might think this was a wacky rom com where Keaton was Griffith’s ex trying to break her and Modine up.) He’s also, however, not quite looking in the same direction as Griffith so that even if they are in the same room, which they seem to be, it feels as if there is a metaphysical glass partition between them. 

Now, finally, we come to Michael Keaton.

1.) It seems quite possible this is merely the old promotional photo photoshop trick. Probably the powers-that-be initially wanted only Griffith and Modine in this promotional photo and then, upon getting a look at this awkward marketing stab, they decided, at the last minute, to insert Keaton too.

2.) That’s why it’s more fun to imagine Michael Keaton photo-bombing the promotional proceedings. Like, this was just supposed to be Griffith and Modine, and Keaton was supposed to get his own promo photo after Griffith and Modine were done. But, understandably bored, Keaton decided, all of a sudden, that wacky guy, to just sort of slip in there on the side and the person on the 20th Century Fox marketing team was either overworked and failed to notice or overworked and so overjoyed at this blip of joy that she/he signed off on it. 

3.) In all likelihood, however, Keaton had a prior commitment, could not attend the photo shoot, and the grand marketing solution was simply to insert a cardboard cutout of Michael Keaton in the background. “They’'ll never notice!”

4.) Unless that was The Ghost of Promotional Photos Past taking the form of Michael Keaton. 

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