This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Directed by Kirby Dick. (2006, NR, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 22, 2006
The MPAA – the Motion Picture Association of America: Everyone complains about the perceived shortcomings of Hollywood's movie-ratings board, but nobody does anything. Nobody, that is, until activist documentarian Kirby Dick, who here makes a movie that seeks to expose the standards and practices of this notoriously insular agency. By design, this board that assigns ratings to films according to their suitability for various age groups is an anonymous panel. It was formed by an association of Hollywood producers as a self-censoring measure to stave off more odious forms of censorship by governmental agencies. The membership of the board is kept secret from both the public and directors seeking appeals. Dick brazenly sets out to do what no one has achieved before: expose the identities of the board members. In order to do this, he hires a couple of private detectives. Their stake-outs and reconnaissance missions make for very entertaining and engaging cinema. While not accompanying the women, Dick visits with various filmmakers and their advocates to gather stories and examples of the inconsistent standards and erratic rulings of the ratings board. He talks to filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan and Darren Aronofsky, whose brows slope toward the high and others whose brows slope decidedly low, such as Kevin Smith and John Waters. The examples provided are illuminating and discussions of things like the allowable number of pelvic thrusts is de rigueur. Some other interviewees include Allison Anders, David Ansen, Jamie Babbit, Maria Bello, Stephen Farber, Martin Garbus, Mary Harron, Wayne Kramer, Kimberly Peirce, and Matt Stone. Ultimately, Dick seems to take more pleasure in torpedoing the system rather than offering constructive criticism. He chooses not to examine other aspects of collusion, including the exhibitors, the newspaper chains that won't print ads for NC-17 movies, the willing self-censorship of the producers association, and the viewers themselves. Yet, like it or not, the MPAA ratings is a system in which we all participate – which makes this film important to see if anything is ever going to change.