The drama about a transgender teenager earned an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for profanity and for sexual references. That means that moviegoers under the age of 17 can’t buy a ticket without a parent or guardian. The Weinstein Company is objecting, arguing that the film needs to be seen by high schoolers because it has a message of acceptance and inclusion that’s relevant at a time when transgender rights are being hotly debated. Transgender teens also have a higher suicide rates — 40% of transgender adults attempted to kill themselves, with 92% of those attempts coming before the age of 25.
(Chris Ortman, MPAA spokesperson)
Chris Ortman, an MPAA spokesman, said the organization did not comment on the process for reviewing ratings decisions, but did say, “Any filmmaker who objects to the given rating can choose to go to the appeals board.”
It’s not the first time that the indie film company and founder Harvey Weinstein have battled with the MPAA. They’ve previously clashed over the R-ratings for “Philomena” and “The King’s Speech.” Weinstein was successful in contesting the NC-17 ratings for 1996’s “Clerks” and 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” and got “Bully,” a documentary about high school bullying, a PG-13 rating.
There’s an added benefit to these skirmishes. They get press for smaller films that may need the extra media attention at a time when multiplexes are dominated by superhero adventures and animated fare. Originally entitled “About Ray,” The Weinstein Company pulled the film from the release schedule three days before it was slated to open on Sept. 15, 2015. The movie earned mixed notices when it screened at the Toronto Film Festival that same year.
“The fact that an R rating would prevent high school students from seeing this film would truly be a travesty,” said Weinstein. “The MPAA and I were able to come to an agreement on ‘Bully,’ and I am confident that we will be able to do so again.”
“3 Generations” follows Ray (Elle Fanning), a teenager who has struggled with the body assigned to him at birth and is determined to start transitioning. First, however, he must find his biological father in order to get permission for the medical procedure.
The studio said it has enlisted David Boies, a superstar attorney known for successfully arguing to overturn California’s gay marriage ban, to advise on their dissent. Boies also helped the company when it was having trouble getting Sunny Pawar, the 8-year-old star of “Lion,” permission to obtain the film’s U.S. premiere, and he assisted in the “Bully” ratings appeal.
Naomi Watts, who stars in the film as Ray’s mother Maggie, said: “This film is a beautiful and touching story about family and identity. It is important for teenagers to see it and the ‘R’ rating doesn’t reflect today’s society. ‘3 Generations’ doesn’t have a bad bone in its body, it’s an expression of love, acceptance, strength, and honesty — values that could not be more necessary right now.”
In a separate statement, Susan Sarandon, who stars in the film as Ray’s grandmother commented, “‘3 Generations’ is an important movie for everyone to see, especially transgender youth who are feeling isolated or fearful and their families. It’s ridiculous to have an R rating which would prevent this audience from seeing the film.”