Blue Valentine NC-17 Rating Overturned by the MPAA

Plenty of criticism has been leveled at the MPAA and their inconsistent rating system over the years (for a great overview of the issues, see Kirby Dick’s documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated), and a couple of months ago, the organization made another highly contentious ruling when they slapped the Ryan Gosling / Michelle Williams drama Blue Valentine with a dreaded NC-17 rating. The decision left The Weinstein Company in a bind, giving them an unenviable choice between cutting something important from the film or having significantly less theatres screen it. They stuck to their guns and left the film intact, but appealed the decision, and in this case the story actually has a happy ending. In a rare turn of events, the MPAA have backed off their original NC-17 rating and decided to give it an R instead. Kudos to them for admitting that sometimes they make mistakes.

The NC-17 rating reportedly came from a sex scene between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams where he performs oral sex on her. The situation is uncomfortable to watch because he wants to have sex and she doesn’t, but it is also a key moment in the breakdown of their relationship. The Weinstein Company argued that the scene was not gratuitous, but rather realistic and necessary. The MPAA agreed.

The MPAA doesn’t overturn their rulings very often, but The Weinstein Company was also successful in getting Zack and Miri Make a Porno changed from NC-17 to an R last year. Apparently they’re getting quite good at the appeal process. Blue Valentine hits select theatres on December 29th, and is expected to potentially earn some Oscar nominations. For more info, check out Charlotte’s 4-star Sundance review of the film from earlier in the year.



  • Niklas

    Great, but then you have to wonder why the exact same scene should be NC-17 because its labeled gratuitous and R because its important to the movie? I thought they were judging the content, not the context.

  • Brendan

    @Niklas They definitely judge context. Like Sean mentioned, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” does a great job of showing how the context is judged by the MPAA, and how arbitrary they can be. It’s on Neflix streaming, but be warned: there’s a whole lotta fuck scenes in it!

  • “The Weinstein Company was also successful in getting Zack and Miri Make a Porno changed from NC-17 to an R last year. Apparently they’re getting quite good at the appeal process.”

    Unfortunately, they’re still not very good at the “getting people to pay to see their movies in the theater” process.