Blue Valentine gets an NC-17 Rating

In a harsh decision, the racy Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling film Blue Valentine has been slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating over its “shocking, gory depiction of a dying marriage”.

Its Indie Film status was already going to limit its releases, and now this rating will reduce the audience able to view it as well. Those involved are attempting to fight the decision and have even resorted to an online petition.

Get the Big Picture quotes Harvey Weinstein:

“We want to express our deepest gratitude to our colleagues in the industry and in the media for their recent outpouring of support for Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine after the film surprisingly received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. We are taking every possible step to contest the MPAA’s decision. We respect the work of the MPAA and we hope, after having a chance to sit down with them, they will see that our appeal is reasonable, and the film, which is an honest and personal portrait of a relationship, would be significantly harmed by such a rating.”

The film is not harmed by the rating. The ability to sell at the boxoffice is.

And Director Derek Cianfrance spoke out too:

“We have a team of great lawyers and so much support from the industry, media and fans. I haven’t really met anyone who thinks that [NC-17] rating is just. We are still fighting it and hoping it can be changed to an “R.” Bottom line is we are not changing the movie out of respect. The movie is this movie … it has no harm in it. It is about loving, intimacy, care and emotions. It is the intangibles of emotion and intimacy you don’t see that got us the rating. If you take those out, that’s the heart of the movie.”

Don’t see how the NC-17 rating is just? Well for starters, the limitations of that rating is exactly the same as a Canadian Rated R. Minors cannot attend. Period. The world still turns. The content of your film is what they have deemed as too mature for minors. Its not porn, but its content above their presumed maturity level. In the US if a film gets an R, you have to bring an adult with you to make the decision as to what you are allowed to see. That adult is responsible for your exposure to the film, and they get to help make the judgement call as to whether the minor is mature enough to handle the content. There is nothing unjust about the rating. The rating is a standard, and that your film fits that standard is a label on your film, not the rating.

I am puzzled why they would expose a movie described as “shocking gory depiction of a dying marriage” to teenagers? Oh yeah. They want to sell tickets – to anyone.

Now I am not a big fan of the MPAA but they have a job to do, and they are doing it. It is these ratings that is regulating who can see a film and to further educate people of the type of movie they are seeing without revealing anything at all about the plot. It is a valid institution and I don’t think abolishing the organization is neccessary. But they have to keep their standards if they expect to be valid.

This ability to take their rating and appeal for it to be changed without changing the film diminishes their function. Don’t like the rating you got for the content you willingly created? Then appeal it! Make a stink about it and get fans to line up and yell at us, then we will change our minds.

Where is the point of rating a film if their decision is so easily overturned. I have not seen Blue Valentine, and I cannot pass judgement on whether the rating is justified for that film, but the rating itself is a valid standard to have.

I also think that these petitions are pointless, and this one would be even MORE pointless considering they are seeking 100,000 signatures that would be amassed by people who couldn’t have seen the film. What value do THOSE signatures have? You found enough people to blindly disagree? I think that’s proving an entirely different point.

They want the MPAA to change their mind because they urged 100,000 people to blindly assume they are making a bad decision?

I admit they don’t have an easy job, and films are often compromised to get the rating required to earn them a wider demographically appealling rating. But that is the choice of the film maker to make those sacrifices, not the MPAA. So often the MPAA gets “blamed” for removing content from a movie, but it was never the MPAA who told them to do it. These flimmakers CHOOSE to.

Some are arguing that horror films have far more visually graphic content and are given an R rating, but those films are disconnected from reality at some level, where this film appears to have a very real and honest look at an adult relationship falling apart. That isn’t disconnected from reality at all, and perhaps the graphic realism of the film is too mature for younger viewers. More mature and impacting than dyed cornsyrup and latex simulated death scenes.

I admire their desire to be uncompromising with their art, but to ask for the MPAA to change their decision might have some grounds (if the film is not as mature and graphic as they suggest) the way they are gathering a voice against the decision is just nonsense. It’s ok to disagree with the judgement. That is opinion.

A blind petition is not a valid arguement. Let’s face it. They want the rating changed so they can sell the film better.

Comment with Facebook

24 thoughts on “Blue Valentine gets an NC-17 Rating

  1. Yes, the issue may be money – but more importantly, the MPAA is aware of what an NC-17 does to a film. it restricts it from being seen not in large markets because many theaters refuse to show NC-17 films. Those theaters refuse to show for a variety of reasons mainly to maintain a family friendly atmosphere but also because they want to make money and fill seats. it is considerably harder to do that with such a restriction.

    It is unfortunate that the hard work of these film makers will not be seen by anyone who doesn’t live in a major metropolitan area because smaller markets are usually dominated by family friend chains and theaters with small profit margins.

    your argument that the MPAA is a valid institution just isn’t sound. Their lack of transparency and questionable practices make it one of the biggest shams in the entertainment industry. I would agree that the petition may not be the most effective strategy, but hopefully the fuss surrounding this film will continue to move the industry towards reestablishing how this system is run.

    It amazes me that the MPAA (a supposedly opt-in system) is still around in it’s current form with anonymous screeners, undefined criteria, and so much power in Hollywood.

    I am happy that this film is getting so much attention due to the rating and the filmmakers refusal to change it. There may be no tangible change coming out of it, but i for one know i will be seeing this movie as soon as i can.

  2. ‎”The film is not harmed by the rating. The ability to sell at the boxoffice is.”

    I disagree. The film is DEFINITELY harmed because parents who see NC-17 are thinking, “Oh that film probably has an insane amount of pornographic or violent ma…terial in it. I don’t want my kids seeing that.”

    I agree that a portion of the audience will be cut out from seeing this, but the bold and pessimistic statement that they’re saying one thing when they really mean another, is quite ignorant.

    “I am puzzled why they would expose a movie described as “shocking gory depiction of a dying marriage” to teenagers? Oh yeah. They want to sell tickets – to anyone.”

    Why do we even bother blasting Hollywood for being unoriginal, if all we’re going to do is blast the directors/writers for being a part of something original, albeit “controversial” and “gory [depiction of divorce]. I also don’t understand how keeping minors from seeing this is protecting them… divorce is all around us, it’s a part of life. I haven’t seen the film, but if this is a “gory depiction of a marriage falling apart” and is more dramaticized than everyday life.. I would argue that THIS film (like the gory films that only get R ratings) is disconnected on some level. If the intensity of the realness behind something really is a factor, why isn’t the violence in Saving Private Ryan resulting in an NC-17? There’s a TON of real-war violence, violence that results in PTSD.

    “In the US if a film gets an R, you have to bring an adult with you to make the decision as to what you are allowed to see. That adult is responsible for your exposure to the film, and they get to help make the judgement call as to whether the minor is mature enough to handle the content.”

    I don’t even know why this example is even relevant in today’s society – do you even realize how many teenagers sneak into R Rated films? There is practically ZERO judgement calls by adults on what their kids can see these days, because they’re not around when little Tommy buys a ticket for The Polar Express, but instead sees SAW.

    As for the petition, you have a point and chances are nothing will change because of a bunch of signatures, and yes the world still turns. There isn’t much the production company can do except to cut some stuff out, etc. I don’t understand your pessimism though.

    You should see the film “This Film Has Not Been Rated”.

    1. Oh good, now my posts can be seen.

      When you respond to my comment, as I’m sure you have an arsenal of responses, please add to that list WHY my comments are being blocked. Gracias.

      1. I already emailed you twice about it Ty. Your comments were not being blocked. There was nothing on my end showing the comments moved to spam, moderation or otherwise.

        They simply did not hit the site.

    2. The film itself is not harmed by the rating. The ability to sell it to major theater chains (who wish to make more money and are more likely to carry films with a larger demographic). And the MPAA’s job is exactly to educate you on the level of nudity/violence/language/mature subject matter that a film has. They are not doing anything to the film by identifying it as such.

      The film itself is not harmed. It is still the same movie regardless of how many people see it.

      That there are kids who can manipulate the system and see the movie anyways is irrelevant and quite frankly in the minority.

      And I am not pessimistic at all about this. If they want to sell the movie to more people, they have to adjust the content to apply to more people. I respect that they do not want to compromise the film or change anything to earn that slightly more respectable rating, but the MPAA is not making them do anything. They have to submit the film for rating and it got scored accordingly.

      1. I have not received your emails, so I apologize for being abrasive on that front.

        Just for clarification, whenever I post under my former email (, the post doesn’t come up on the screen. But I’m glad to hear that you got my emails.

        “The film itself is not harmed by the rating”

        I still disagree. I agree that it’s the same movie. I agree that the world still turns. But what I’m getting at is that the CREDIBILITY of the film is hurt when given a rating such as NC-17 because that usually means it’s explicitly sexual, or has so much gore that blood is literally pouring out of your television set.

        What the majority of people don’t know (except for the few who visit sites like TMB) is that Blue Valentine is getting an NC-17 for a supposed “graphic depiction of a failing marriage”. You say that this “realistic” approach is too real and impacting, that films depicting violence are disconnected on some level from reality.. You never responded to my rebuttal (sp?) pondering why Saving Private Ryan got an R-rating then, when it has scenes of a young men crying out for their mothers while their intestines occupy the majority of the screen.

        “They are not doing anything to the film by identifying it as such.”

        If all I told my mom about the film was it was rated for “disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language”, she would think I was talking about an R-rated film (Titanic, PG-13). Then if I told her about a film that was rated for “some language”, you might think PG, PG-13 tops (Frost/Nixon, R).

        Identifying it as ..what, exactly?

        If anything, we’re arguing about the wrong stuff… on IMDB it says it was rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content.

      2. Actually, the more unrealistic the violence is, the less it is counted against the film. Realistic illustrations of violence or sex scenes that are more than suggestive all contribute to a more serious rating than bucket gushing gore and topless women.

        And even the director of Blue Valentine says his film is graphic in everyway from the sex scenes to the domestic abuse and fallout of their relationship.

        People are quick to point a finger at the MPAA, but really what if the film actually DOES have pretty intense sex scenes, violence, and language to deserve the title.

        Why is no one considering the possibility that the film IS NC17?

      3. Honestly, and you’re face is going to be -.- when you hear this, I thought the ONLY reason this film was getting an NC-17 was because it depicted the graphic nature of solely the MARRIAGE falling apart.

        I wasn’t thinking about language or sex. Explicit sex, in my opinion, DOES warrant an NC-17. But if it was solely the nastiness behind two people breaking apart, then that’s where I would have my problem.

    1. Considering their passion for insisting it should have been an R, it sounds like no one thought it was “a bit much for a rated R”

      But their set of morals and opinions differ from the static checklists of the MPAA.

  3. I will gladly sign and go against anything that wants to fight the MPAA. Their rating agenda is totally f**ked. They’ll allow people getting blown to bits, tortured, decapitated, thrown off buildings, etc…and some of these things still manage to get a PG-13 rating…yet they want to limit someone’s viewing of the human body? A lot of these people let their moral judgement based off religious beliefs weigh in on their rating system and that’s where I find the biggest problem. Since when has sexuality or relationships or the human body body offensive?

    1. Religion or personal morality has nothing to do with it. They watch these films with a checklist in front of them and have to quantify why they are giving it that rating. Violence and fake gore do not rank as high on the threat scale as sex and mature subject matter.

      You are applying your OWN set of morality rules to judge them, and in that I find a bit hypocritical that their rating system is only faulty because it doesn’t line up with your own morality.

      With the exception of stopping minors from attending a movie, the MPAA rating system does not affect the grand majority of viewers as much as it simply informs and educates so you can make that judgement call.

  4. A blind petition is not a valid arguement. Let’s face it. They want the rating changed so they can sell the film better.

    And having the movie start off with an NC-17 rating plays right into their hands. A NC-17’s don’t get tossed around too often so when one comes up there is a tendency for movie watchers to think, “Oh man this is NC-17! I’ve got to see it!” Yes there are people out there who will go see a movie just because of the rating.

    I’ll bet even now there are a lot of people who now want to see this movie simply because of the rating, thus playing into the film makers hands in the form of drumming up publicity. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they were aiming for an NC-17 from the get go just so this would happen.

    1. AMC took a chance on an unrated film when Hatchet 2 was released – bragging about how it was SO gory it couldn’t be rated.

      They pulled it from theaters 2 days later because literally a couple dozen people saw it.

      1. What do those two statements have to do with eachother?

        It seems like you are saying only a couple dozen people saw it because it was Unrated.

        What if it just looked like it might have sucked worse than the first one?

      2. The point is that they are worried that the NC17 rating will hurt its ability to get distributed in theater chains, then an Unrated release is going to limit that even more.

        AMC took a chance on Hatchet 2, and that illustrates how many unrated films get picked up by major theater chains. That experiment only helped prove why they don’t bother with unrated releases.

      3. Could also just be because no one cares for AMC theaters. In Orange County anyways, only the older crowd go to the AMC’s… and usually only because of the art and independent films they play.

        If the Edwards chain had taken Hatchet, I bet there’d have been more movie-goers. I didn’t even know Hatchet 2 was playing in theaters, so another factor could have just been poor marketing.

      4. What difference does it make that it was AMC? That’s kind of a broad stroke of assumption there. People typically go to a theater because of the movie that is there, not the theater itself.

        If the movie was only playing in AMC and you wanted to see that film, you would go to it regardless of how you feel about AMC. Its just a seat.

  5. From the description of the movie, it may not show any graphic nudity or graphic violence. It doesn’t seem like a movie with a rape scene and gruesome revenge murders, but those movies get a R rating. If the movie doesn’t have graphic sex or graphic violence is the NC-17 rating justified? I can see it being unpleasant to watch just by being something realistic that many people can relate to. But that shouldn’t mean that it gets the NC-17 rating. Anyway, I doubt they care too much about getting an R rating. The movie was never going to make much money anyway. This is actually great publicity for them. The trailer or teaser for this movie didn’t interest me at all. Now that I know about the rating, I want to go out of my way and look for this movie.

Leave a Reply