Movie Review – This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Director: Kirby Dick
Starring: Kirby Dick, John Waters, Becky Altringer
As much as I like movies, it makes sense that I enjoy watching movies about movies. This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a documentary about movies, or more specifically, about the way in which movies are rated. Started in 1922, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was created to represent and protect the interests of the major movie studios (Disney, Sony, Paramount, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.). It lobbies to protect copyrights, dissuades piracy, and is probably best known for its labeling system. We’ve all seen the ratings before previews or on DVDs: G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. All films that wish to be distributed and advertised by a major film company must submit their movies to the MPAA, where they will be viewed and rated in secrecy. This documentary went through the same process, with the hope of exposing the monopoly of power that one organization holds over filmmakers and audiences alike.
Kirby Dick set out to make a documentary about the highly secretive process in which films are rated by the MPAA. While interviewing the filmmakers of some movies with high adult content (American Psycho, Boys Don’t Cry, Eyes Wide Shut), he discovered some interesting trends. Movies with sexual themes are more strongly critiqued than ones with violent scenes. Also, comedic sexuality is given a lesser rating that passionate sexuality. Female pleasure is highly censored, even when done in a non-graphic way. And we are made to guess and discover what the “rules” of the MPAA are because that information is secret. Ratings are given without explanations, members’ identities are classified, and the entire organization is autonomous. When private investigators attempt to uncover the identities of the raters and the manner in which films are judged, they discover that the MPAA is less a panel of “average American parents” and more a group of critics controlled by the film corporations and outside interest groups. And when This Film Is Not Yet Rated goes under review for its own rating, the NC-17 stamp that it is labelled with is handed down with no answers given, no questions allowed.
This was an interesting documentary that gave me a little more insight into the process of film-making. It was surprising to think about, when a movie is created and done, it still has to be approved and perhaps edited even further if a board of a dozen members doesn’t like some of its content. Now, they can’t stop the movie from coming out, but no studio they represent will carry the movie without it having been rated by the MPAA, and an NC-17 rating for whatever reason will pretty much kill any chance at a profit. So the subject matter was intriguing, but the movies did get a little boring after a while. It turned into more of a gripe film than a documentary, as director after director told their story about how they didn’t understand their rating and how they were mad about it. I got the point pretty early and the rest was just beating a dead horse. But I did enjoy the attempt to infiltrate the “secret society” of the MPAA, and I do feel like I am more knowledgeable about the film industry now, so I have to say I liked the film for what it was, I just couldn’t really love it.
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰