"Blue Valentine," the piercing new drama by Derek Cianfrance starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, has won its appeal against the NC-17 rating originally awarded to the film by the MPAA's ratings board. The film will now be released with an "R" rating on December 31st by the Weinstein Company.
What does this appeal mean in regards to the MPAA overall, and what does this mean to the film as an awards season contender? Those two questions have both come up in the last few weeks in multiple conversations about the film, and I think both questions have answers that can be seen as either troubling or promising depending on your perspective.
For example, the Classification and Ratings Administration, or CARA, which is the actual voting body of the MPAA that handles the ratings, has been changing in the last few years, and I would argue that this appeal has to be viewed as part of a continuity of events that indicates that the CARA's decisions are just as random and baffling as ever, but that the appeals process has finally been fixed, meaning filmmakers have a real shot at getting a reversal on those totally arbitrary decisions at this point.
The reason I think the system has started to work is because of one revision in the rules on the appeal process, allowing for appeals to cite precedent. That's so important, such a fundamental idea, that it seems bizarre that it's a recent development. When you can point at a moment from an earlier film that was rated "R" and show that it was either the same or more graphic than a moment you're fighting for in your own movie, it's invaluable.
The following quotes were sent over from The Weinstein Company in response to today's appeal:
“All of us – the filmmakers and cast – were united in our support for the film in its original form. After presenting our case to the MPAA appeal board today, they were convinced of the artistic nature of Blue Valentine and recognized that it was consistent with the kind of movies for which The Weinstein Company is known. We appreciate their decision to give the film an ‘R’ rating,” stated TWC Co-Chair Harvey Weinstein, who led the appeal with a team of attorneys including Alan R. Friedman and David Boies.
“Every so often you get to stand up for something that you believe in. We believed in presenting relationships and sexuality with an honesty and truthfulness often lacking in the grand tradition of Hollywood sensationalism,” stated Derek Cianfrance. “I am thankful the MPAA saw the light and were humble enough to reverse their decision, and I am also thankful for all the support from the industry and fans of Blue Valentine. This is a victory for free speech and artistic integrity.”
“I am so appreciative that the MPAA was gracious enough to reconsider their rating of the film,” offered star Ryan Gosling. “I can’t express how grateful I am to those in the media who stood up for the film and put their reputations on the line in using their voices to support something they believed in. This is a film that was created for the audience, to reflect how complex they are and to involve them in a dialogue that Derek Cianfrance has been trying to engage them in for twelve years. We’re over the moon to have the opportunity to finally be able to share it with those for whom it was intended.”
“It is amazing to be a part of this historic decision,” said Blue Valentine producer Jamie Patricof. “While this has been a frustrating distraction from the film, the outpouring of support from the industry, journalists and film fans has been truly moving. We are ecstatic, that the MPAA was able to see the honesty that Derek was able to achieve in this film and overturned the original rating, so the film can now be seen all across the world.”
As far as the conversation I'm seeing that "now the film can be a real contender for awards" or that it wouldn't have been if they had lost the appeal… well, that sums up what makes me crazy about awards. I don't see what difference a rating makes Either you think a film is one of the best films of the year, featuring the best performances of the year, or you don't. If you're looking at the rating before you're voting, then do us all a favor and don't vote. I personally love "Blue Valentine," and while I don't think it will validate the film if it gets awards, it deserves them as much as anything this year does.
I would hope that this puts any lingering hesitancy about the film to bed, because it's a film that deserves an audience, and now that the last commercial roadblock is out of the way, here's hoping The Weinstein Company throws their full weight behind it.
"Blue Valentine" will be released December 31st.