EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T seen “Birdman” yet (and you should!), you’ve probably seen the trailer or read stories about the movie, enough anyway to know that it is a dark comedy starring Michael Keaton as a has-been superhero actor trying to act his way past the caricature. Not a happy camper, and mentally . . . interesting.
In an early scene we find Keaton as Riggan seated in his dressing room at the fabled St. James Theatre on Broadway. And there, front and center as Riggan addresses his demons, sits a jar of Creme de la Mer moisturizing cream. Riggan never even touches the jar.
It seems an odd thing to appear on the makeup table of a man whose face looks like a road map of age and self-destruction. And it looks to be the giant “economy” $450 size.
Then, sometime later, comes another makeup-table scene. And there, not quite as prominent, is what looks like a jar of some cream by Lancome, though I can’t swear to it. Whatever it is, Riggan doesn’t touch this one either.
So now I’m wondering whether there’s an inside joke going on: Is every dressing-room scene going to feature a different skin cream?
Back in 1992 I went to see Robert Altman’s “The Player,” just like everyone else. This dark send-up of Hollywood deal-making apparently had one of the main actors order a different brand of bottled water in every restaurant scene. I say “apparently” because I was too dim to catch on; someone told me about it later.
I didn’t want to be a step behind this time!
MLB contributor Andrea Rouda pointed out to me that there is a credit at the end of “Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” for two “product placement coordinators.” Hmm, I looked them up: Sure enough, Adam and Cat Stone are husband and wife and the principals of Stone Management, whose work includes such things as perhaps putting Creme de la Mer on the makeup table of the star of an Oscar-trending movie.
When I got Adam Stone on the phone (he actually called me back), his first response was to say, “My friends at La Mer will be pleased to know that you noticed” their product. But his second response was to explain that part of his deal with movie studios is not to talk about product placement while a film is still in theaters (“Birdman” opened in New York and L.A. on October 17 and in Bethesda and Washington on October 24).
Wasn’t La Mer worried that their product had such a grizzled spokesman, albeit an incidental one? Speaking generally, Stone said that companies know all about the movies they will be part of. “I think companies are happy for the exposure and to be part of the [movie],” he said.
It’s not clear what products get out of being shown in a movie beyond exposure. Enormous enterprises such as Coca-Cola are such a part of the American landscape that spotting a can or bottle of the soft drink wouldn’t seem odd. Niche products such as the La Mer creams and serums, on the other hand, are known to beauty mavens but could probably benefit by spreading some of their cachet around.
Even on the makeup table of a has-been actor in a dismal dressing room in the none-too-glamorous bowels of a Broadway theater.
I have $500 worth of La Mer products sitting upstairs on my vanity. They were a super-generous gift from my sister-in-law, Marty. But, unlike Riggan, I touch them–even fondle would not be too strong a word–every day. And let me say, my skin looks a helluva lot better than his!