LOS ANGELES – Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s marital drama ‘Blue Valentine‘ on Wednesday won a rare appeal of its adults-only NC-17 rating and will go into theaters with an R rating instead.
Motion Picture Association of American spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman said the rating was changed after the group’s appeals board viewed the film and heard arguments from Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is releasing it.
The drama initially drew the NC-17 rating for a “scene of explicit sexual content.” The film now carries an R rating for “strong graphic sexual content, language, and a beating.”
“I am so appreciative that the MPAA was gracious enough to reconsider their rating of the film,” Gosling said in a statement. “I can’t express how grateful I am to those in the media who stood up for the film and put their reputations on the line in using their voices to support something they believed in.”
The most explicit sequence in ‘Blue Valentine’ is a scene in which Gosling’s character performs oral sex on Williams’ character.
An NC-17 rating would have prohibited those under 17 from attending and could have been a kiss of death for the film, as that rating is equated with pornography in many theater owners’ and movie-goers’ minds.
With an R rating, those younger than 17 can see the film if they’re accompanied by an adult.
Along with arguments from Weinstein, the appeals board heard from ratings board chairman Joan Graves, who presented the rationale for the original NC-17 rating.
‘Blue Valentine’ director Derek Cianfrance said the rating change was a win for “free speech and artistic integrity.”
“We believed in presenting relationships and sexuality with an honesty and truthfulness often lacking in the grand tradition of Hollywood sensationalism,” Cianfrance said. “I am thankful the MPAA saw the light and were humble enough to reverse their decision.”
Ratings appeals are rare at the MPAA, which rates 800 to 900 movies a year and reports that fewer than a dozen typically are appealed.
Films initially are classified by the ratings board, made up of parents with no previous connection to the movie industry. Appeals are decided by a panel of film professionals.
The film hits theaters Dec. 31, just in time to qualify for the Academy Awards. Williams and Gosling, both past Oscar nominees, have awards buzz for their roles as a couple in a crumbling marriage.
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