Blue Valentine Given Black Eye

by Rachel Bennett

The Motion Picture Association of America is showing no love for Blue Valentine. The MPAA has given Blue Valentine the film industry’s equivalent to a death warrant: an NC-17 rating.

What exactly is a NC-17 rating? The rating, called X until 1990, does not allow anyone under 17 years old to see a film.

Director Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine chronicles the disintegrating marriage of a couple, played by Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and has since been screened at the Toronto and Cannes film festivals.

The rating is causing many who have seen Blue Valentine to scratch their heads. The scene that has warranted the NC-17 rating reportedly depicts the couple’s drunken night at a hotel. She does not want to have sex but he does, so she eventually gives in so as to make him leave her alone. He then becomes upset when he realizes her consent is insincere. Although the scene is allegedly unsettling and does contain some nudity, some people feel it does not justify Blue Valentine’s rating.

“I won’t even get into how ludicrous this decision is on the part of the MPAA,” said Dave Karger, an Entertainment Weekly writer. “I’ve seen far more sexually explicit films get away with an R rating.”

The film has been praised by critics, including Karger, and has been considered an Oscar front-runner—especially in the lead acting categories.

But, with am NC-17 rating, Blue Valentine might get left out in the cold.

NC-17-rated movies usually do not fare well at the box office because only a limited number of theaters show them.

The highest grossing NC-17-rated movie in box office history is Showgirls, which earned a little more than $20 million. Showgirls is the only NC-17-rated film to make more than $20 million, and, along with 11 others, to make more than $1 million. On the other hand, The Passion of the Christ, the highest grossing R-rated film, earned almost $371 million.

NC-17-rated films tend to do just as well during awards season as they do at the box office. Only one NC-17-rated film, Henry & June, has been nominated for an Oscar. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography in 1991, but it lost to Dances with Wolves.

However, there is hope; the Weinstein Company, the studio that bought Blue Valentine, could fight the rating.

The company may appeal the NC-17 rating, even though it would not guarantee an R rating. The Weinstein Company appealed the R rating for its film The Tillman Story in August, but the MPAA refused to reduce it to PG-13.

The Weinstein Coompan could also release Blue Valentine without a rating, since the studio is not an MPAA signatory. Requiem for a Dream was originally NC-17, but it was instead released in 2000 without a rating. The film went on to earn a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Ellen Burstyn in 2001.

The likeliest choice for the Weinstein Company is to edit the controversial scene in Blue Valentine. The scene would subsequently not be as risqué and would give the film an R rating. Boys Don’t Cry was edited to an R after it initially received a NC-17 rating—paving the way for Hilary Swank to win the Best Actress Oscar for the film in 2000.

The Weinstein Company has yet to comment on the rating or on what the studio’s next action will be.