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Posted at 4:24 PM ET, 12/ 9/2010

'Blue Valentine' to get R rating: MPAA saves face

By Ann Hornaday

The director Derek Cianfrance got some good news Wednesday afternoon, when word came down that the Motion Picture Association of America's Classificaton & Rating Adminstration reversed its initial decision to give his romantic drama "Blue Valentine" an NC-17 rating.

After lobbying by the film's distributor, Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein, and a legal team that included David Boies, the ratings board gave "Blue Valentine" an R, meaning it has a chance to play more theaters and receive better marketing (theaters often refuse to book NC-17 rated films, and newspapers often decline to advertise them.)

Cianfrance was "with my 3-year-old son Cody, watching him cut up a fruit salad" when he got the call about the decision. "I was very excited but I kept my focus" to make sure the youngster stayed on task. "Blue Valentine" stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple in distress after years of marriage; the intimate, searingly honest portrayal of early love and its decline earned raves at the Sundance film festival and Cannes. Although Cianfrance was never told specifically how he earned the initial NC-17, he heard it was because of a scene where Gosling's character engages in oral sex with Williams's. The scene is brief and both are clothed. "We just tried to present sex in the movie like we did every other aspect of their relationship," Cianfrance explained, "with a kind of rawness and honesty that's lacking in traditional Hollywood sensationalism. It was so frustrating ... to think that we were being punished for being responsible as filmmakers."

Cianfrance quoted Gosling praising Weinstein for "using his superpowers for good," but Harvey may not want to sit down quite yet: CARA inexplicably rated "The King's Speech" (another Weinstein Company film) R for profanity, even though the curse words in the film aren't lewd or gratuitous, but used in the course of an unorthodox speech therapy regimen. Movie fans, start your petitions!

Look for "Blue Valentine" to arrive in Washington theaters early next year.

By Ann Hornaday  | December 9, 2010; 4:24 PM ET
Categories:  Ann Hornaday  
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The MPAA rating system would serve a useful function if it were not so utterly capricious and arbitrary. A system that gives the same rating for profanity to "The King's Speech" and, say, "Kick-Ass" (which I loved, but the profanity was pretty serious) is worse than useless. The MPAA should completely revamp the system and provide some clear guidance as to what gets rated which. While they're at it, they should eliminate the NC-17 rating altogether and let parents decide what their children can see. (No, I'm not angling to get in to NC-17-rated movies. I'm 63.)

Posted by: GordonCash | December 9, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

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