Mike Fleming

The Weinstein Company next month will challenge the preliminary NC-17 rating that the MPAA slapped on Blue Valentine, the Derek Cianfrance-directed drama that is a potential Oscar contender for performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. An appeal was expected since Deadline broke the news that the film was dealt a rating that places restrictions on its theatrical run and its ancillary life as well. The hearing will be held in November, and Harvey Weinstein will be represented by attorneys Alan R. Friedman of Kattin Muchin and David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. The film will be platformed in December to qualify for Oscar consideration.

This morning, Harvey Weinstein issued this statement: “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.”

Weinstein has made a career of exploiting the taboo rating on films to get attention for them, but the rating given Blue Valentine was a surprise to many who’ve seen it. The film has impressed in festival runs that began at Sundance last January (it was acquired by Weinstein shortly after), followed by Cannes and then Toronto. Cianfrance’s drama tracks through flashbacks the slow corrosion of the relationship between a young couple, and the rating was given for a drunken attempt at sex between the married couple after they head off for a night in a hotel in an attempt to repair their relationship. The scene is certainly painful to watch, but I’ve seen much worse get an R rating. At the hearing, Friedman will likely be accompanied by Cianfrance or Gosling. They get  15 minutes to plead their case, and they will show footage from several films that had comparable scenes and got the R rating.

An MPAA spokesman said they don’t comment until a rating is accepted, but he noted that “every film is screened by a group of what the majority of American parents would rate the film.”

If they are unsuccessful with the appeal, the filmmakers can either edit the scene and resubmit, or release unrated. Per the MPAA, the appeal is heard by a board composed of distributors, exhibitors and industry people who’ll either uphold or overturn.

MPAA Gives Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams Drama ‘Blue Valentine’ Dreaded NC-17