2½ stars (out of four)
"This Film Is Not Yet Rated" is 100 percent right about our corrupt and hypocritical industry-controlled movie ratings system. Being right, however, doesn't automatically make for a strong documentary. I enjoyed a lot of it. Yet fully half of what's on screen is beside its own point.
Kirby Dick's film--really two documentaries, one far more valuable than the other--takes the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings to task. Kirby is most hacked off regarding the system's brazen favoritism toward violence, its not-so-latent homophobia and its habit of slapping independently financed and distributed pictures with a restrictive NC-17 rating while allowing major studio-released content, sexual, violent or otherwise, to slide by with an R rating.
Dick illustrates his points well. In one split-screen demonstration we witness a scene (Kevin Spacey in his shower) from "American Beauty" run alongside a similar vignette, this one with a woman on screen, not a man, from the little-seen indie "But I'm a Cheerleader." Female self-gratification equals forbidden fruit and an NC-17. Male self-gratification equals R and Oscars, baby, Oscars!
(Because of the sexual content in some of the clips, and because Dick has no fans on the MPAA board, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" is rated NC-17.)
The documentary takes a wrong turn in turning the camera on itself. Dick, attempting to ferret out the identities of the anonymous members of the ratings board, turns "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" into a detective story. He hires private eyes and, camera in hand, accompanies them on their fact-finding missions to determine who's who. They start sifting through trash--literally, sifting through the ratings board members' trash--to learn more about the ratings process, criteria and rationales.
It's fun for a while. Then you realize all this Michael Moore-ish folderol is weakening the movie's strongest arguments.
'This Film is Not Yet Rated'
Directed by Kirby Dick; photographed by Shana Hagan, Kirsten Johnson and Amy Vincent; edited by Matthew Clarke; music by Dondi Bastone; produced by Eddie Schmidt. An IFC Films release; opens Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema. Running time: 1:37. MPAA rating: NC-17 (for some graphic sexual content).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times