‘Blue Valentine’ wins MPAA appeal, will be released as an R-rated film

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The MPAA has overturned the rating for the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams romantic drama ‘Blue Valentine,’ downgrading the movie from an NC-17 to an R. A controversial sex scene that initially landed the film the NC-17 rating will not be changed.

The decision -- which comes as a result of an appeal by distributor the Weinstein Co. -- means that the movie can now be released to a broad array of theaters when it opens Dec. 31, and that it can be seen by people under age 17 if they are accompanied by an adult.


The Weinstein Co. cofounder Harvey Weinstein and counsel Alan Friedman both presented their case in front of a 14-member board Wednesday. Gosling said last week that he had hoped to attend the appeal hearing but that he wouldn’t be able to make it because of scheduling commitments.

[Updated, Dec. 8: Weinstein Company Chief Operating Officer David Glasser said he believes that ‘the message the MPAA is sending here is that it’s a new era.’ He added that Harvey Weinstein went in front of the board with a 200-page dossier of letters and arguments, as well as 3,000 tweets, in support of an R rating.]

The film had initially been given the strict rating because of what the Weinstein Co. said was a scene in which Gosling’s character performs oral sex on Williams’ character. The studio and director Derek Cianfrance had argued for several weeks that the scene was integral in showing the development of the couple’s relationship and that, without any nudity, it was not exploitative or gratuitous.

The MPAA said the ‘Blue Valentine’ case marks the sixth time this year that a film’s rating has been appealed. Traditionally, the MPAA and its Classification and Rating Administration win the appeals, forcing studios either to alter their movies or live with more severe ratings.

The decision, then, marks a victory for the voluble Weinstein and avoids a potentially thorny situation in which he either would have been forced to back down and cut the scene or release the film as an NC-17, which would have limited its distribution and marketing opportunities.

The ruling comes after several weeks of media campaigning by Harvey Weinstein -- a campaign that culminated in a special screening Saturday inviting members of the Hollywood community to see the film and weigh in via an online petition. Last week, Cianfrance told The Times that the appeal was a ‘chance to stand for something,’ citing what he believed was a ‘form of censorship’ on the MPAA’s part.

He also said he couldn’t see any way the scene could be altered without undermining the point of his movie. ‘Cutting the scene would have been cutting into the heart of the film,’ he said.

-- Steven Zeitchik