This Film Is Not Yet Rated

How do movies get rated? Why all secrecy about the people chosen to review movies for rating? And do major studios pictures get preferential treatment over independent films? Kirby Dick tries to address these questions and issues with his documentary THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED. Unfortunately, this subject deserved more serious treatment that Dick gives it here.

The focus of THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is the distinction between the R and NC-17 ratings, since NC-17 can result in not only everyone under 17 being banned from a movie but also a loss of advertising avenues. The highlight of this documentary is the series of interviews with filmmakers who have fought the NC-17 rating their movies received; these include Kevin Smith (who, surprisingly, discussed the battle over JERSEY GIRL instead of CLERKS), Kimberly Peirce (BOYS DON'T CRY), John Waters (A DIRTY SHAME), Marry Harron (AMERICAN PSYCHO), and Wayne Kramer and Maria Bello (THE COOLER).

Dick provides a lot of evidence of the inequalities in the rating system. Using many examples, he shows that there's a hierarchy of acceptability: Violence is more okay than sex, and heterosexual sex is more okay than kinky or gay sex. There's also evidence that studios get away with more in their ratings, and they get more detailed notes on what to cut to get that desired R rating. He also provides a brief history of the ratings system, and outrage over the mystery and bureaucracy surrounding the rating and appeals processes. (For example, when appealing a rating no other movies can be referenced, presumably so the standard used for one movie isn't applied to another.)

Dick swerves massively off course when THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED focuses on the investigation of the raters. He decides to find out who the current raters are, to show the hypocricy around them. (The MPAA says they all have children under 17, yet the investigation reveals many of their kids are in their 20s or 30s.) Instead of simply giving us the result of the investigation, he joins the investigators through their research. The result: less time covering the ratings system or interviewing fascinating filmmakers, and more time digging through garbage, tailing cars, and using hidden cameras.

Dick also manipulates the material shamelessly. Very few interviews are given that support the ratings system; instead, he uses clips of Jack Valenti (who headed the ratings board for decades) that are followed by facts contradicting those clips. When Dick can't get permission to show or play conversations with ratings board members about this documentary getting a NC-17 rating, he uses computer animations (with rolling eyes) and actors to make them less credible. And it's no coincidence that Dick talks about one of his investigator's lesbian lifestyle with the segment showing how the ratings board is tougher on gay and lesbian sex. And did he really expect his film -- filled with images that got other movies a NC-17 rating -- would get rated R?

THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is a good start at looking at how movies get rated, but it's too manipulative and self-involved for such a serious topic. I hope this movie inspires someone else to make a better documentary on this topic.

Overall Grade: C

Reviewed by James Lynch

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