BLUE VALENTINE Movie Review Analysis; What NC-17 Rating means

BLUE VALENTINE starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, directed by Derek Cianfrance

Blue Valentine opened in Toronto theatres last week with an R rating. You might be wondering why I am telling you this but, Blue Valentine was originally slapped by the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) with an NC-17 rating. This apparently shocked everyone including their neighbours and their neighbours' dogs as very few movies (none that I've heard of) were deemed by the MPAA worthy of the notorious rating. NC-17 rating was the old "X" rating, which at the time meant "No one under 17 admitted." However, the "X" rating was not an MPAA trademark. So when the porn industry started rating their movies in the "X" category, more X's attached to the movie the better the movie (porn-wise, of course) the "X" rating became synonymous to pornography.

This being the case, the NC-17 rating was born. On September 27, 1990, the MPAA introduced the rating NC-17 ("No Children Under 17 Admitted") as its official rating for adult-oriented films bearing the MPAA seal.

The ratings used from 1990 to the late 1990s were:

  • Rated G: General Audiences — All ages admitted
  • Rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested — Some material may not be suitable for children
  • Rated PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned — Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
  • Rated R: Restricted — Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
  • Rated NC-17: No children under 17 admitted

In the late 1990, MPAA decided that the NC-17 wording "No Children Under 17 Admitted" was not strong enough and changed it to "No One 17 And Under Admitted".

So what is the big deal?

So what if it's NC-17 and the kids under 17 can't see it. Well, that's not exactly true. What it really means is that the movie cannot play in major theatre chains. Theatre owners, scared to death of legions of sign-carrying anti-smut crusaders and not wanting to turn away teens and pre-teens at the boxoffice, have almost universally refused to show NC-17 films. In the movie business, teens and pre-teens are also known by their trade-name: "Ticket-buyers." Furthermore, media that refused to advertise X-rated films also refused to advertise NC-17 movies. It stigmatizes the movie in a big way. Needless to say, NC-17 rating is the kiss of death for a movie.


film by OCAL, source Photobucket
film by OCAL, source Photobucket
adult genre by OCAL, source Photobucket
adult genre by OCAL, source Photobucket
Syringe by OCAL, source Photobucket
Syringe by OCAL, source Photobucket
wedding by OCAL, source Photobucket
wedding by OCAL, source Photobucket
Swearing by OCAL, source Photobucket
Swearing by OCAL, source Photobucket
nude female silhuette by OCAL, source Photobucket
nude female silhuette by OCAL, source Photobucket
brutality by OCAL, source Photobucket
brutality by OCAL, source Photobucket
Husband wife love. by Mohamed Ibrahim, source Photobucket
Husband wife love. by Mohamed Ibrahim, source Photobucket

So how did Blue Valentine got slapped by MPAA with NC-17 rating?

Well, I went to see the movie on Friday and I honestly didn't see anything so outrageously over-the-board sex in the film to warrant said rating, despite all the hullabaloo surrounding it. But to tell you the truth, I wouldn't know what NC-17 is even if it hits me on the head. The MPAA does not release specific guidelines as to what content will receive which rating. However, they do state that many factors are considered including content such as sex, violence, nudity, language, adult topics and drug use.

Fair enough. So let's do an analysis of Blue Valentine, shall we?

  • Drug use - No drugs.
  • Adult Topic - It's about a marriage on the rocks. So I guess that's adult topic, which I'm sure the kids are just dying to see.
  • Language - No, no swearing that I could remember.
  • Nudity - Yes, I saw female breasts. But then again, I had seen female breasts in some PG-13 movies.
  • Violence - define violence. Has any movie ever been rated NC-17 due to violence? Right, never. Well, almost never.
  • Sex - Yes, between husband and wife. Oh yes, the couple had sex before they got married. OMG! That could be it! Seriously, no.. but it was definitely about sex.


So what happens if your movie get slapped by the MPAA with NC-17 rating?

You can appeal and re-edit, removing the scenes too offensive to the board and that usually solves the problem and your film rating will drop to R, which is the more acceptable rating.


In the case of Blue Valentine, however, the film's director, Derek Cianfrance, refused to re-edit his film on principle. He believes his film did not deserve NC-17 rating. After a short time, the MPAA had overturned the NC-17 they slapped on Blue Valentine, and now the film has the softer R rating.


What caused the MPAA to overturn their original rating?


No changes to the film itself were made, but to the description of the film. Turns out there's a difference between "graphic sexual content" and "explicit sexual content."


According to Joan Graves, head of the Classification and Rating Administration, this is how the different wording affects the decision: "'Explicit' is usually only used to describe NC-17 material. "'Graphic"' means the sexuality is strong, even graphic in some areas, but seems to give the correct information to parents."


Ah.

Broken heart by OCAL, source: Photobucket
Broken heart by OCAL, source: Photobucket
Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in "Blue Valentine" source: Sundance Film Festival
Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in "Blue Valentine" source: Sundance Film Festival
Michelle Williams at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, source: Wikimedia Commons
Michelle Williams at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, source: Wikimedia Commons
Ryan Gosling, source: Wikimedia Commons
Ryan Gosling, source: Wikimedia Commons

Movie rating:

10 - A masterpiece, go, see it now

9 - Excellent movie, a must see

8 - Great movie, go see it

7 - Good movie, worth seeing

6 - Not bad, could be much better

5 - So so, worth if you don't pay

4 - Not good, even if you don't pay

3 - Poor movie, not recommended

2 - Very bad, forget about it

1 - Worst ever, avoid at all costs

BLUE VALENTINE starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, directed by Derek Cianfrance

Blue Valentine is a painful analysis of a marriage that begins on a cloud of pure romantic love, only to collapse miserably six years later. Dean (Ryan Gosling), the blue-collar husband incapable of changing or comprehending why everything has gone wrong. The wife Cindy (Michelle Williams), who once dreamt of becoming a doctor, finds herself barely able to be in the same room with her husband.

Blue Valentine is a love story about falling out of love, following the marriage of Dean and Cindy as they move through critical highs and lows: the first moment they fall in love, and the realization that comes when everything is over and there's no chance of recovery. This is an extremely painful film to watch. It's the joyful promising beginnings and the sad irrevocable ending.

The story begins in the present and through flashes, the audience get to see the way they were. We draw comparisons and analyze the differences, the same way people do when they remember a failed relationship. There were so many wonderful moments. Where did it go wrong?

Dean makes the best effort he knows how to save their marriage: he books them into a seedy fantasy motel which Cindy obviously doesn't want to go. The audience can feel her frustrations, crying behind closed doors. They both drink until they can't stand up anymore and they both fell on the floor. Dean tries to revive the passion in his wife by trying to make love. But the passion in Cindy has long been gone.

Blue Valentine is a great movie with defining raw performances from two brilliant young actors, who carried the weight of a heavy drama on their shoulders like the real pros they both are. Their relationship looks and feels so real. What is so impressive is the dual performances of the actors, who seem like entirely different people as the film flashes from the past to the present and back. They go through both physical and emotional transformations during the six year period of the film: Williams from shy and adorable to sad, sullen and 15 pounds heavier, and Gosling from charming young lad full of life to bland father beaten down by life with a receding hairline.

If you want to see a movie that is entertaining, do not see this movie - this movie is painful to watch. Also, do not see this movie if your relationship is going downhill, it might hasten the fall. If you want to see two outstanding actors deliver unforgettable performances and the sheer genius of a brilliant director, then go see Blue Valentine. You will love this movie.

I am giving this movie a 9. I love it.


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Comments 17 comments

Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya Mimi, thanks for dropping by. Me too, I just hate gratuitous nudity or sex scenes in a movie. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my movie review.

Have a nice day,

Rosie


Mimi721wis profile image

Mimi721wis 5 years ago

Just hubbing around. There are many great movies that lose my interest with unnecessary nude scenes. I'm not opposed to nudity. It's natural. Nice hub.


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya Ralph, thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you saw Blue Valentine. I agree with everything you mentioned about Gosling's character and I understand why you sympathize with his character. Although Williams' character is not perfect, I too sympathized with her because as a woman I could understand how frustrated she was and when love is gone, it's difficult for the whole family. It is a sad movie, that's for sure.

Have a nice day,

Rosie


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago

I agree that Blue Valentine certainly didn't even come close to an X rating. I wasn't aware that NC17 replaced X.

Perhaps because I'm a man my sympathy went much more to Gosling's character than Williams' character. Although he was a high school dropout without any visible ambition beyond making a success out of his marriage and family, he was a much nicer person than the Williams character. This was revealed in the way he treated their daughter whose biological father was Williams' previous boyfriend, in the way he treated Williams and in a scene when he tenderly helped an old man move his remaining possessions move into a room in a nursing home. His approach to making love was contrasted also with Williams other boyfriend. Williams' tough, ambitious un-empathetic character was revealed in the scene in the abortion clinic when she replied laconically to the nurse-counselor that she had had 25 different sex partners.


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya prasetio, thanks for dropping by. This movie just opened here in Toronto last week.. that's probably why you've never heard of it yet. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Love and peace to you too.

Have a nice day,

Rosie


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

I never knew about this movie before and NC-17 is new term for me. Thanks for share with us. I don't have any word to say. But you have beautiful review. Good work, Rosie. Love and peace!

Prasetio


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya ExpandYourMind, thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you found my review interesting. I'm also not a huge fan of sex in movies, specially gratuitous sex. I feel uncomfortable.. I guess I'm a prude after all. But I take it as part of the movie, and the sex part in question is a desperate attempt to save a marriage, which sadly is beyond redemption.

Have a nice day,

Rosie


ExpandYourMind profile image

ExpandYourMind 5 years ago from Midwest USA

Interesting review, Rosie . . . and synopsis of the rating system. I'm not a huge fan of on screen sex, but if the art is to imitate life, I guess this story could not be told without. Txs!


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya Will, thank you so much for the vote up and I'm glad you found this useful.

Take care

Rosie


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Oops! That darn delay!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

By the way Rosie, your review was up to your usual excellent standards!

Voted up and useful.


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya my dear friend Rhonda, tweet tweet. I'm glad you liked my movie review. This movie is not for everyone. It is painful to watch, but you're ok.. your relationship is strong and happy. I'm so happy for you. hugss

Have a nice day,

Rosie


Rhonda Waits profile image

Rhonda Waits 5 years ago from The Emerald Coast

Hi Rosie. An excellent review. I have not seen the movie yet but I got to go see it now. Two great actors. Love him, he is sexy. Thanks for sharing. Tweet tweet, Facebook, and hub hub.

Sweet wishes Rhonda


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya Will, thanks for dropping by. No my dear, you are not a prude or I would be a prude myself. I don't mind sex in a movie as long as it is not gratuitous. The sex part of this movie (at least between Gosling and Williams) was an integral part of the movie. This movie is not for everyone. My opinion is based on the superb performances of the brilliant young actors and the way the director created a simple sad story into an excellent movie.

Have a nice day,

Rosie


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hiya my dear friend Jackie, that is an awesome description of this movie. I was hoping upon hope that they will try to save their marriage, just one last chance. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams rock! hugsss

Have a nice day,

Rosie


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Hi Rosie!

I'll have to admit that I'm firmly opposed to Hollywood sex, but not because I'm a prude. I fully accept and support sex as the most natural thing in the world after eating Fritos and watching NASCAR.

No, I oppose it in Hollywood offerings because it's a cheap substitute for a great script, great actors, and a great movie. When we see lists of the best movies ever made, not one of them is about sex.

Now I sure there's a great deal more to this movie than just sex, but I guess my point is that I long for the days when movies had to be good enough to draw folks into the theaters when they knew beforehand that all the actors would remain fully clothed.

But maybe that's just me.


onceuponatime66 profile image

onceuponatime66 5 years ago from USA IL

Rosie2010: "This emotionally gripping examination of a marriage on the rocks isn't always easy to watch, but Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling give performances of unusual depth and power."

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