Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams Indie “Blue Valentine” Slapped With Unexpected NC-17 Rating

Will Leitch
Movie Talk

%photo13% One of the breakout hits of this year's Sundance Film Festival was "Blue Valentine," a relationship drama starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It features some raw, searing scenes of emotional brutality involving a crumbling couple, and some have called it a legitimate Best Picture contender. The Weinstein Company purchased the film at Sundance and is releasing it in December, just in time for awards consideration.

But that plan hit a snag earlier this week when the MPAA gave the film the dreaded NC-17 rating, shocking not only the film's many defenders but also The Weinstein Company, the studio that produced it. In a press release issued Thursday morning, TWC president Harvey Weinstein announced he's appealed the ruling:

"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 Motion Picture Association of America. 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."

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Critics who have seen the film are befuddled by the NC-17 have been left to guess as to why the MPAA gave it the rating, though it seems to involve an intimate scene between Gosling and Williams that's more emotionally charged than graphic in nature. (Deadline.com's Michael Fleming calls the rating "a head-scratcher.") But it's worth noting that this isn't the first time the Weinsteins have dealt with the NC-17 rating, and it tends to work out wonderfully for them.

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The first, and best, example was Larry Clark's "Kids," which received an NC-17 back in 1995 and rode the controversy all the way to Weinstein's wallet. At the time, Harvey Weinstein joked, "We'd make [then-MPAA head] Jack Valenti our partner, and get the movie rated NC-17." That is to say: Sometimes the publicity an NC-17 brings is the best thing a film could hope for. Considering the Weinsteins have a film to sell, and many theaters still won't show NC-17 films, you can count on the film eventually garnering the R rating it needs. Meanwhile, all of us are talking about "Blue Valentine" when otherwise we would not be. The temporary NC-17 rating for "Blue Valentine" might be the best thing that could have happened to it. It wouldn't be a surprise if, when he saw the NC-17 rating, Weinstein, despite his statement to the contrary, did a little jig. Now everyone will be buzzing about "Blue Valentine," and that's what publicity is all about.

Watch the "Blue Valentine" trailer below


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