MPAA gives 'Blue Valentine' an NC-17


Image credit: Davi Russo


The staff at the Weinstein Company is in crisis mode today after the MPAA bestowed a dreaded NC-17 rating on its upcoming domestic drama Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Wiliams. I won’t even get into how ludicrous this decision is on the part of the MPAA. I’ve seen far more sexually explicit films get away with an R rating. As a huge fan of the film, I’m most worried about what today’s news means for its Oscar chances. The film might be too bleak to score a Best Picture nod (though if I had a ballot, it would be at the top), but I would have considered Gosling and Williams strong lead-acting contenders. But NC-17 movies simply don’t get Oscar nominations. (Unless you count a cinematography nod for Henry and June.) Ang Lee learned that the hard way with Lust, Caution. I would imagine the Weinstein Co. is considering making a few trims to the film to get an R, but it kills me to think that the version I saw (and can’t stop thinking about) in Cannes might not reach theaters. The movie isn’t scheduled for release until Dec. 31; here’s hoping they figure something out before then.

UPDATE: Blue Valentine‘s NC-17 rating to be appealed by Weinstein Co.

Comments (159 total) Add your comment
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  • SAinSA

    Midnight Cowboy received seven Oscar nods despite its original theatrical X-rating.

    • Maureen

      That was a long time ago, though, when the X rating — and the entire ratings system — was new, and the X/NC17 ratings didn’t have the stigma they do now.

      • Sean Penn’s Taint

        A Clockwork Orange received a few nominations as well, and it was banned in the UK.

      • G

        It wasn’t actually banned in the U.K…… Stanley Kubrick himself decided to not allow it in the U.K. because his family was receiving death threats because of the movie.

        Just letting you know! :)

    • K

      Midnight Cowboy also was changed to an R rating years later.

    • Larry David

      You bet your sweet ass that it gets an NC-17 rating. The whole movie is sex, sex, sex, crying, then more sex.

      • Nathan

        Sounds like something I’d enjoy ;-)

      • Kevin

        And yet something with violence, violence, death, gore, and more violence can easily get a PG-13 rating as long as there are no b00bs. We live in a backwards country.

    • Celia

      Lust, Caution (directed by Ang Lee) is one of the best movies I’ve ever scene and it got an NC-17 rating and it was banned in China.

      • davey

        THANK YOU! Lust, Caution was breathtaking!!!

    • tracy bluth

      It actually won Best Picture and Best Director.

      • H

        If by ‘it’ you mean “Lust, Caution,” it wasn’t even nominated for anything at the Academy Awards.

      • m1

        @H: She means Midnight Cowboy.

    • +1

      Yes, your boyfriend left you and he is NEVER coming back because you became a relentless shill for pay sex sites. Put the mouse down, close the offshore paypal account, you will feel sooooo much better.

    • Lucy

      Lol. Well said +1. Can’t EW do something about robo-hooker? She’s in every comments section!

    • Rob

      Isn’t Hotsef’s comment the plot for ‘Blue Valentine’? :)

      • m1

        I think it somewhat is :).

    • Hotsef’s ex

      Hotsef, baby, it’s me, your ex boyfriend. Baby, look, it was wrong of me to leave you, and I was going to ask to get back together. But now that I see that you’re using that terrible site, I just can’t do it. I’m so disappointed….is it wrong?

  • S.O.

    ok, this movie now goes into my category of MUST WATCH.

    • amj

      That’s exactly what I was thinking!

  • dee123

    Sometimes i really don’t understand this country. Decapitate as many people as you want, but don’t you dare have sex.

    • Maureen

      Yeah, I clicked over here because I thought, I wonder if a film actually got rated NC17 for violence? Of course not. God forbid people should see, onscreen, something that pretty much everybody does; the ratings board thinks we should only watch the kind of murders and tortures that, pray God, most of us will never experience or perpetrate.

      • Sarah

        Hatchet 2 did.

      • datruth82

        Your comment got me thinking. I see your point that watching heinous acts of violence is horrendous, so why is that allowed in rated-R movies, while sex is not.

        But, I think the real question is why would anyone want to watch either one?

        What is appealing about people brutally hurting and killing each other, and what’s appealing about watching other people have/simulate sexual acts?

        Point blank, if I walked in on two people having sex, or pretending to have sex, it would be awkward for all. Yet, that’s what’s done with movies…just weirder, b/c not only are you watching this with a theater full of people you don’t know, but you actually paid to see it with a theater full of people.

        When you actually stop and think about it, it’s basically like paying for public porn, called by another name.

      • By

        Datruth, it’s called art. ANY way of saying art should be censored is downright evil. And if you think watching and”awkward” moment of sex on screen is as dangerous as watching violence on screen, which inspires kids to go shoot everyone in their school, but gets a lower MPAA rating, then I pray to god you are not a parent.

      • Tony

        Maybe it should use NC17 for violence only and another for sex. I agree nobody Wants to watch brutal murders (unless its politicians).

      • fox

        I clicked for same reason. I watched the reboot of Halloween and was boggled by the graphic exploititive rape scene. A-OK with an R rating but show a female orgasm (Boys dont Cry) and they’ll be hell to pay.

      • mary

        sex is not art and neither is violence. just because it is someones interoeretation of someone elses idea does not make it art. stop defending trash in the name of the 1st ammendment

      • SC

        Datruth, what I think is odd is that you’re equating what can be a beautiful act with brutal violence. What is odd that you didn’t add any modifier to the word sex when making that post. I don’t get uncomfortable seeing nude art and I don’t get uncomfortable seeing it on the big screen. Sex can be beautiful, gratuitous, degrading, emotional, funny, and violent and simply rating a movie NC-17 because it is present outside the context of the weight it carries is absurd.

      • Krystal

        I don’t get it either- I used to work at a video store and when parents asked “what’s it rated?” and I mention R and they say “is it for violence?” and I mention yes they’re all “okay sounds good. As long as they’res no nudity.” Um your kid can see people killing each other but a boob will set off your mommy meter? I don’t get it did you not breast feed your baby? Sex isn’t taboo it’s beautiful and so is the human body. I think it’s sad this movie got this rating for sex and love

    • reason

      I completely agree dee123. God forbid we see sex, a natural way of life. TV is also a culprit, CSI basically shows emballments at 9:01 PM before the credits even roll, but Sesame Street nixes a Katy Perry sketch because of cleavage, something every other person on the planet has.

    • DW

      This is a tired old cliche. Hundreds of violent films have had to be edited to get an “R” rating, -just like films with sexual content.

      • thin

        No, they really don’t. Violent movies get rated R and then edit down to PG-13.

    • J

      I have said that so manny times!

  • The Jackal

    I don’t get it either. Halle Berry got an Oscar for being nailed pretty good by Thornton.

    • S

      Oh yeah, I spanked it to that scene numerous times. Thank you for the reminder.

      • LoL

        LOL!! Me too!

    • reason

      I always thought they were really going at it? Isn’t there like 2 or 3 infamous scenes in movies where people swear to this day it was not simulated? Isn’t Monster’s Ball one of them?

      • Sally121’s last date

        Yeah, I met Sally121 there. She was a great time, let me tell you. Incidently, we were followed by a camera crew, and they made a movie about it. It’s called Blue Valentine, and it’s pretty graphic. Fortunately, because of the rating, not too many theaters will show it. So at least Sally121’s mom and dad won’t be freaked about seeing me give it to their daughter.

      • Oscar Historian

        Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in “Don’t Look Now” is another one.

  • Maureen

    Oh, and wait, I just read your review — this is sex between MARRIED PEOPLE. No, we can’t let the American public see that! How does the worthless MPAA get to continue existing?

    • m1

      LOL. I don’t think the MPAA is worthless.

      • Maureen

        Yes, they are. They are supposed to provide guidance for parents and viewers, but they do this by applying moral codes that are anything but moral (such as: mass murders are okay to watch, married people in bed together isn’t) and have more to do with pandering to the studios than they do with informing the public. They do NOTHING that filmmakers couldn’t do more accurately themselves.

      • Anna

        I don’t get your point. I fail to see how them being married makes a difference. I agree 100% on their inconsistency in rating violence compared to sex, you lost me when you added the married part. Sure some people consider sex between married couples morally better than unwed couple, but that has nothing to do with other people watching them have sex. That’s like a guy saying he has better morals for watching porn with only married couples. Also, the MPAA does serve a good purpose even though they have their issues.

      • Brody

        Anna, maybe Maureen is commenting that it’s consensual sex between married people as opposed to, say, pedophilia or rape? That’s the impression I got, anyway.

      • Anna

        @ Brody
        And what about consensual sex between unmarried people? Why do only “MARRIED PEOPLE” have to be singled out? That’s my issue with Maureen comment.

      • Eileen

        @Anna – Maureen was being sarcastic. Her point is that, for some reason, it seems like the MPAA has a problem with married sex being singled out.

      • reason

        or maybe Maureen was just pointing out that it is not like theses are 2 people who just met and rush into bed, or it isn’t one man/woman sleeping with multiple partners. I get what she is saying, there is a difference.

  • Kelsey

    Whaaaa…? When I saw this, I did a double-take to make sure it was THE Blue Valentine and not some other movie. This is pretty ridiculous and I can’t help but wonder if politics or a power play is somehow involved. I’ve seen some pretty raunchy stuff get away with an R rating, and while I haven’t seen Blue Valentine yet, I can’t imagine what could be in it that would warrant an NC-17.

    • mary q contrary

      The first thing I thought of was a studio with rival contenders, which of course may or may not be the case. However, I’ve thought the MPAA was crooked for a long time now, and this just seems to back up my theory.


      I stopped watching prime time TV because if you hadn’t seen the movie you couldn’t be sure it was something you could watch with your 25-48 yr old grand kids without leaving the room. For the life of me I can’t imagine, The Blue Valentine being worse. It’s only so many position a human body can get. in.

  • m1

    I was actually shocked when I heard about this. What a shame. I also heard that there’s no chance for an appeal. I guess it’s an ‘edit-or-death’ situation for the film.

  • m1

    Judging by what I’ve heard, it’s a little messed up to slam this with an NC-17 though Piranha 3D can go R.

  • Rm

    Why do we have to watch people have graphic sex anyway? I don’t get why they to take it so far in movies.

    • brad

      But seeing a movie like Saw or Hostel where people have their limbs ripped off while the victim watches isn’t too far for you?

      • James

        It’s way too far, Brad. The violence in Saving Private Ryan alone should merit an NC-17 rating. There are certain images that leave lasting psychological effects on a person. There are two scenes in the last battle in that movie that fit the criteria.

        The thing is that sex and violence go too far in movies, and more of them should be getting tougher ratings. For crying out loud, the movie “The Backup Plan” actually showed a woman’s vagina! For more than a second! And the movie was PG-13.

        The MPAA rating system IMO is entirely too inconsistent.

        Okay, I’m done.

      • Eileen

        @James – I haven’t seen The Backup Plan, but I’m assuming that the “vagina” image was part of childbirth, yes? I think it’s pretty reasonable that childbirth isn’t as “bad” as sexual content. Most elementary students see a childbirth video in school. Yes, parents can opt out – and those same parents should probably reconsider taking their children to romantic comedies.

        But yes, the MPAA system is inconsistent, and overall, what standards they do have seem to have been relaxing over the last several decades.

      • Rm

        “But seeing a movie like Saw or Hostel where people have their limbs ripped off while the victim watches isn’t too far for you”

        Um..where in my comment did I condone that? I don’t even watch those movies.

    • Delena

      @Rm I like watching people make love on screen. It’s an aspect of life. And whether graphic or not, there’s no reason why sex should not be shown. If you don’t want to watch sexually explicit films no one is forcing you to watch this movie.

      • Rm

        Then go watch porn.

      • Delena

        @Rm why don’t you go watch the Hallmark channel. Hopefully nothing on there will offend your delicate sensibilities. Better yet, why don’t you take a time machine back to the 1950’s. People have sex. Deal with it.

    • mike b

      what graphic sex are you talking about Rm ? You never see a girl giving a guy an actual blow-job on the screen. you never see a penis entering a vagina. the only place you see that is in porn movies. The ratings board is all screwed up. They now give an R rating to movies that have smoking in it. If Hollywood was to rate every movie that was made in the 30’s to the 60’s 98 per cent would have been rated R because of all the smoking in movies back then. Can you imagine a movie like Casablanca with an R rating because the actors are smoking in the movie. I think it is about time that the rating system either gets fixed or just scrap the whole thing because they are not doing there job correctly.

      • James

        Yeah, I don’t smoke and hate smoking, but I think that nailing a movie with an R rating because of tobacco use is ridiculous.

  • Anthony

    Hmmm after all the buzz I have heard surrounding the film, I refuse to see any other version than the one that was played at Cannes. And if someone knows why would this movie get the NC-17 rating, is it that sexually explicit?

    • Anna

      I haven’t seen it but heard it is very rauchy including a graphic scene with michelle receiving oral sex. I must admit I want to see the sex scenes because if History of Violence was rated R, I am very curious to know what pushed this over the top.

      • Sue

        Did anyone catch Good Wife season opener? I was surprised at network tv doing a pretty good job at simulating oral sex. I was slightly embarrassed watching!

      • jr

        when i watched it at the premiere at TIFF i felt a little weird watching it cause most of the stuff is pretty graphic….but i think that’s the point of the film, everything is really raw and emotional and tragic, so i feel bad if others are gunna have to watch a cut version without those scenes because they only enhance the entire point of the movie

      • Kevin

        I don’t remember History of Violence being particularly graphic (either violence or sex)… it’s been a while since I watched it though.

  • Garry

    Let’s face it: Movies are rarely given NC-17 ratings unless they’re borderline porn, i.e. the sex onscreen is real, not simulated–which seems to be the case with “Blue Valentine.” The rating system is simply meant to let viewers know that to expect before they see the film.

  • lj

    Wake up and smell the coffee, even the most buzzed about Oscar contenders benefit from a bit of publicity. Given the fact that this film isn’t a major flashy Hollywood epic the whole NC-17 rating works perfectly into it’s bids for nomination season. Graphic sex scenes will not be looked upon well by more traditional types so the film will have some cuts, and gets some great buzz. The media storm has begun! Way to go Weinstein and Co!

    • AK

      Except that no one will get to see the movie because most theaters don’t carry anything rated NC-17.

  • Flip

    Did Ryan and Michelle actually have sex on camera for this movie???

    How much sex is shown..full frontal nudity?

    • Garry

      From what I’ve read, it’s apparent that they did have real sex on camera, and at least one scene includes her full frontal nudity.

      I don’t know why actors don’t find a way to “fake” it, especially if they hardly know each other. It baffles me.

      • Brian

        You are a legitimate crazy person if you thought the sex in this film was real.

      • Fred

        come on get real… hilarious….

      • nodnarb

        From what I’ve read, he gives her a rusty trombone on camera.

      • Aaron

        Gerry you are on crack. There is hardly any nudity in this film…unless you are absolutely horrified at seeing a man’s ass or a woman’s breasts, then don’t go see this movie…I have seen Blue Valentine already and from my personal opinion there is nothing at all that should warrant it an NC-17 rating. I am baffled…I felt the sex scenes in Monster’s Ball were much more graphic and uncomfortable. It’s just frightening how America is so desensitized to violence but shudder at the thought of seeing simulated sex scenes.

    • Fred

      you are so nerdy Garry…..get real…

  • Davey

    I have no idea what papers you are reading but I’ve seen the film and there’s nothing that’s remotely like borderline porn in the film. I’m with Dave Karger, this is one of the best films of the year and it’s brutally honest but not as bleak as some of the reviews have indicated. Why? Because you actually feel for these characters and though their relationship doesn’t last, you leave the theater richer than when you entered. Both Gosling and Williams are fantastic.

    • Betsy

      Thanks for the spoiler, Davey.

  • Alexandria

    If anyone hasn’t seen it, watch “This Film is Not Yet Rated” a doc about the MPAA and the rating system. Entertaining and informative.

    • Kyle

      That doc is amazing, and really outlines what is acceptable according to the MPAA. They say it’s to protect kids, but all or almost all of them (it’s been some time) don’t have children, or have children who are well beyond their teenage years (we’re talking 30-40 years old here). They don’t have a grasp on today’s morals, which, let’s face it, are significantly different than when they and their children were younger. It’s a different world, but the MPAA hasn’t changed one bit. Almost everyone on the panel is 55+!

      • James

        So what you’re saying is that something that was considered too risque 50 years ago is ok now because it’s a different time?

        Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 society!

      • Kevin

        Hmmm… apparently James wants to go back to an era when interracial relationships were illegal and women who exposed their ankles were considered harlots. I really hope there aren’t many people like you in the world James.

      • bret

        Yes, James, I believe that’s what kyle is saying, because he’s a sane person.

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