The movie had been assigned an R rating because of "some sexual content" — specifically the word "fluffer," which refers to an employee on an adult film set who prepares male actors for performing sex scenes.
The appeals board heard statements from both the film's producer, Leonard Hill, and its writer, Wendy Kout, as well as MPAA chairwoman Joan Graves. After conferring briefly, the board unanimously overturned the rating, 12-0.
"Dorfman" stars Sara Rue as a 27-year-old trying to settle into life in downtown L.A. after moving there from the suburbs of San Fernando Valley. The movie premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival last October but has generated little buzz since.
Hill said he and the filmmakers decided to appeal the rating because they felt the R would "send the wrong signal" to a potential audience.
"We were basically told that unless we replaced the word in question with a term less noxious — like 'hooker' or 'stripper' — that we had to keep the R rating," Hill explained. "It seems so bizarre and arbitrary. Still, we made a determination to appeal it, even though we had to waste two months and $300 for the right to appeal, which isn't nothing for a small production like we are."
In 2010 and 2011, nearly 50% of appeals were successful. But this year, it has been rare for the MPAA to reverse a ratings decision. This past spring, an appeals board upheld an R rating for the teen documentary "Bully," but the MPAA later agreed to downgrade the rating to a PG-13 with only minimal changes from distributor the Weinstein Company.
"Dorfman" has yet to secure distribution, though Hill is hopeful it will hit theaters this year.