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This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Ever wonder why the rating system can be so kooky and who makes those decisions? The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated is curious, too, but the answers still remain blurry.


Unfolding like a detective story, filmmaker Kirby Dick sets out to find who is making the decision to label the movies we see as G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17. With interviews from past and present members of the Motion Picture Association of America, and with a history that takes viewers back to the early days of Hollywood, Kirby explains the voluntary system and its origins. Then, he reveals how totally arbitrary and unfair it is. There are many discussions about the ratings from filmmakers: South Park creator Matt Stone discusses how Team America had its genital-free wooden puppets receive an NC-17; director Kimberly Peirce discusses how a female orgasm had to be cut in Boys Don't Cry, but the brutal beating of the transvestite character was OK; and director John Waters explains how there was nothing he could do to save A Dirty Shame from an NC-17 rating. Most entertaining, however, is the pair of real-life female detectives who try to get the names of the people who work for the MPAA, and the efforts they go through to do it.


Everyone is playing themselves, but it's nice to see a few of them get very dramatic off camera. Actress Maria Bello is passionate when she defends the use of her pubic hair in a scene that almost nabbed The Cooler a NC-17 rating. Kevin Smith is almost smirking at himself as he discusses his difficulty in dealing with the board when his innocuous Jersey Girl got dinged for discussions about masturbation, and he riffs that the MPAA couldn't deal with the sweet Lord of the Rings elf princess Liv Tyler being a chronic masturbator. Even David Ansen, the film critic for Newsweek, gets a bit animated as he talks about the head-scratching discrepancies that come from the ratings board. You'll see filmmakers and critics get mad, get silly, get emotional but still be completely baffled.


This finely researched piece of work is certainly Oscar worthy, but the problem is that it may be too hot to handle. Kirby Dick has directed a film that might as well be called I Never Want to Make a Movie in This Town Again, but it's a brave look at an antiquated system everyone seems to buy into in Hollywood. He also unveils a certain amount of sexism, homophobia and penchant toward violence in the idiotic decisions the MPAA makes. One telling segment requires multiple viewings because it shows almost the exact same scenes in different films--one heterosexual, which gets an R rating, and one homosexual, which gets a NC-17. Ironically, when the board saw This Film Is Not Yet Rated, they slapped it with the more restrictive NC-17, which prevents it from being advertised in some newspapers or from being shown in some multiplexes. So, the film is going out ''unrated,'' naturally.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.