After The Weinstein Co. lost its battle with the MPAA to reduce the film's R rating to PG-13, the distributor opted to open Lee Hirsch's "Bully" unrated on March 30. This is yet an another example of Harvey Weinstein using the Ratings Board–and well-publicized appeals–as an effective marketing tool, going all the way back to "Scandal" in 1989.
In this case the R rating–for language, including a crucial use of the F word– is debatable, considering that far more violent "The Hunger Games" is PG-13. "Bully" is meant to educate parents, teachers, children and school officials on the epidemic state of bullying in schools; the ones more likely to be shocked by what they see in "Bully" are parents, not children.
Hirsch has ardently defended the film's swearing:
“The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”
After the premiere Monday night, Hirsch was joined by parents and children featured in the film for a Q & A (check out the video below).
One moviegoer asked how the film can change the law. Hirsch replied that his goal as a filmmaker is "to change hearts and minds," and not to change laws, which usually end up protecting the schools more than the children. Trying to stop bullying through legislation, like many issues in America, is the wrong way to go.
"Bully" opens March 30 in New York (Angelika Film Center, AMC Lincoln Square) and Los Angeles (The Landmark, ArcLight Hollywood, AMC Century City).