[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your weekly dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
In case you've been wondering what Charlie Sheen's been up to, it appears he's been busy portraying another Charlie: Charles Swan III, the womanizing protagonist of Roman Coppola's latest, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. Along with the wordy, head-trippy title, the film's flagship poster suggests a very Hunter S. Thompson-esque romp, the sun beating down on a whole lot of hedonistic, '70s-era elements. The ad deftly achieves a groovy, throwback mood, nailing that evocative cool that's also been used to promote flicks like Jackie Brown. Its red-tinted characters back up against a hazy California sky, and their duds and hairstyles scream disco-day nostalgia (yes, that's Jason Schwartzman sporting a Jheri curl). An accomplished music video director known for keen stylization, and for collaborating on the meticuolus work of his sister Sofia and friend Wes Anderson, Coppola no doubt hand a strong hand in the movie's one-sheet development, bring artful verve to the push of a film that seems quite the hard sell.
Then again, the Charlie Sheen factor could prove a major draw, for surely the novelty of the headline-maker's involvement isn't lost on the filmmakers. There will be people who'll try to dub this movie a "comeback" or a "redemption," of sorts (Sheen's confident gaze toward the horizon implies as much), just as there will be others who'll label it one more irksome chapter in the infamous actor's exhaustive saga. Either way, haters and fans alike are liable to be intrigued, and, besides, the film seems a tad too classy to put all its eggs in the stunt-casting basket. One could, however, have a lot of fun thinking over that tagline, "Reality is overrated," which may well be a knowing nod to Sheen's post-meltdown, Tiger Blood-fueled campaign, which exploited the power of reality media to make a product of a celebrity's unraveling. It seems to say, "Those days are over, and Charlie's back in a legit role, tinged with a just-right amount of meta-ness." This, of course, in addition to intimating the character's apparent flights of fantasy.
It was rather essential that this film's posters be exceptionally rendered, specifically because Charles Swan III is himself a graphic designer. Slipping into a series of dreams, nightmares, and mishaps after being dumped by his girlfriend, the artist begins to reevaluate his life, and, one might think, pour that anguish into his work. The offbeat cast-member one-sheets that accompany the original are mostly wry illustrations of phallic objects, like Sheen's banana, Schwartzman's pickle, and Aubrey Plaza's lipstick. It's always nice to see the artsy details of a film's narrative work their way directly into its promo material, and it helps this particular line of posters stand ahead of the new trend of assigning dozens of quirky one-sheets to a single film (look no further than the messes of cover art for Killing Them Softly and The Man with the Iron Fists). Charles Swan III may indeed turn out to be another shameless Sheen-coaster, its only nostalgia being for that of the actor's epic fall from must-see-TV grace. But the posters promise otherwise, chicly suggesting it won't be just another tour of Sheen's twisted brain.