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by Peter Knegt
October 8, 2010 5:48 AM
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Report: "Blue Valentine" Slapped With NC-17

A scene from Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine." Image courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Derek Cianfrance's Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams anti-romance "Blue Valentine" was delivered quite the opposite of a valentine this morning when Deadline broke the news that the film had been slapped with an NC-17 rating. Due to be released in late December, the MPAA's decision on "Valentine" is sure to prove controversial given the film's lack of content that would seem to warrant such a harsh rating.

"The NC-17 is an absolute head-scratcher," Deadline's Mike Fleming wrote. "I'm told the rating was given for a scene in which the characters played by Gosling and Williams try to save their crumbling marriage by spending a night away in a hotel. They get drunk and their problems intensify when he wants to have sex and she doesn't, but will to get him off her back. That hurts his pride and the result is an upsetting scene that makes you squirm, but is an honest one that establishes clearly that this couple has nothing left and isn't going to make it because love has turned into contempt. There is barely any nudity in the scene, as I recall (though I haven't seen it since last January) and there is no violence. It was hardly a moment that would make you think, well here comes an NC-17."

Told through flashbacks,"Valentine" looks at the rise and fall of the marriage of Gosling and Williams' characters over a number of years. Acquired by The Weinstein Company after a very warm response at Sundance, the film is being positioned for awards consideration with a December 31st release date. Its distributor is most certainly not going to be a fan of the MPAA's decision, nor are many others. In the hours since the decision, comments on Fleming's article and a variety of Tweets have made it clear early consensus is that the MPAA is once again demonstrating its "archaic" ways.

The decision also marks the third questionable MPAA decision this year that The Weinstein Company has had to deal with. In August, they gave Amir Bar-Lev's acclaimed documentary "The Tillman Story" an R rating for "language." The Weinsteins lost their appeal to the MPAA to have it reduced to a PG-13. Then last month the MPAA gave another Weinstein Oscar hopeful, Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" another R rating for the same reasons it was handed to "Tillman."

But it's "Blue Valentine"'s decision that is likely to stir up the most unwelcome feelings. In the 20 years since the NC-17 rating was originated (it had its anniversary this year when it had been two decades since "Henry and June" - the first ever NC-17 film - was released), the only film with the rating to manage to gross over $20 million remains 1996's "Showgirls," which took in $20,350,754. Only 11 others - including Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education," John Waters' "A Dirty Shame," Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" and David Cronenberg's "Crash" - gave managed a $1 million gross. Check out a list of the top 10 grossing NC-17 films here.

More on this story as it develops. Check out the recently released trailer for the film here:

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14 Comments

  • Anna | November 29, 2010 5:04 AMReply

    "If you make a picture a lot of people want to see, no rating will hurt you. If you make one few people want to see, no rating will help you."

    The thing is, NC-17 rating means that some theaters won't show it, some rental stores won't include it in their selection etc. which will hurt the film's success.

  • JFM | October 18, 2010 6:07 AMReply

    Looks great from the trailer. I can't imagine why it would get an NC-17 unless very graphic sex scenes were involved. The MPAA is a joke in my opinion.

  • Mike Jones | October 12, 2010 10:55 AMReply

    If you make a picture a lot of people want to see, no rating will hurt you. If you make one few people want to see, no rating will help you.

  • Barry | October 12, 2010 1:13 AMReply

    I think the Weinsteins pissed off the MPAA. No other reason for an NC17 that I cxan think of. This is a really great film that is being severely wounded. Very bad move MPAA.

  • Seriously this is wrong | October 10, 2010 9:56 AMReply

    This just makes me wanna see the movie more! What could possibly be more graphic than the last 7 Saw movies or how about the extreme non stop violence that is in every other movie being released? Blue Valentine - NC 17??? It's a joke right?

  • Dan Templeton | October 9, 2010 9:36 AMReply

    This does take a hit at the lie we live in America ...that we are free. Censorship is part of
    what Americans have come to expect since the leaders, like here in China, do not believe people are smart enough to make decisions about what they want to read or see.
    My fellow Americans, wake up...you have few actual freedoms and it is small groups of people like the film ratings board who want to run/ruin your supposed "life". Films like "Lust, Caution," "Nine Songs", and others should continue being made with a promise by America to revolt and attend every film we can get into the country and show.

  • jim fouratt | October 9, 2010 5:10 AMReply

    Blue Valentine is raw and authentic in depicting the breakdown and loss of a relationship. So adult in its story telling, Blue Valentine resonates with life. How threatening can that be to any adult viewer. Williams and Gosling bring multi-level insight and complicated emotions to their characters ...Dark yes... but life also can be dark... Shame on the MPAA Keep the Sundance cut please.

  • dh | October 9, 2010 1:51 AMReply

    Having seen this at Sundance, I can't for the life of me remember what's in it that possibly could have prompted an NC-17. It certainly wasn't anything lurid or unexpected enough to leave a lasting impression.

  • Electric.mayhem | October 8, 2010 11:30 AMReply

    There's movies that no one knows about so they don't see it and then there's movies that are worthless and no one sees. Group B always claims to be Group A...

  • Kamron Samuels | October 8, 2010 11:04 AMReply

    I am convinced that if enough of Hollywood's big players released movies without ratings-regardless of content-that would entice movie theaters to show them, and therefor the industry to restructure the MPAA. It's a necessary organization, however it's ways and it's operating procedure are antiquated, and indeed without actual guidelines.

  • rosa | October 8, 2010 11:02 AMReply

    Censorship, lovely, yuck...

  • Brett Wagner | October 8, 2010 7:13 AMReply

    America was founded by rebels and puritans, so deep in the nation's psyche is a respect for violence and a fear of sexuality. The MPAA continues to be a powerful expression of that ass-backwards ideology.

  • asiafilm | October 8, 2010 7:01 AMReply

    Any fiction or documentary film that honestly shows life must get a NC-17 rating at the minimum, because reality is at least an R-rating. Anything else is an entertaining fantasy lie....True freedom in America: Films can be made, but can't advertise or be shown in many places, so they won't get an audience and have to lose money; therefore, they won't be made....What can a mature thinking adult do? Go to China, Afghanistan, or be born again, on another planet.

  • Keil Shults | October 8, 2010 6:22 AMReply

    For some reason, all I can think of is the two parents and their two pre-teen children who sat behind my wife and I during a recent screening of Piranha 3-D.