To be honest, I was shocked when I heard about the film's rating, mainly because I wasn't aware there still was an NC-17 rating.
After all, if you watch cable television--even on channels like AMC and FX--there isn't a lot you're not exposed to anymore.
When googling the movie to find out what brought on the dreaded rating formerly known as "X," it's interesting to learn that the scene in question is one where a married couple (Gosling and Williams) check into a hotel for the night to try and revitalize their marriage only to have a sexual encounter that starts out being more of an assault until Williams' character gives in to her husband's advances at which point the scene simply becomes, as more than one reviewer put it, "uncomfortable."
This made me curious: What about that merits an NC-17?
We all know too much nudity will get you in trouble, but by all accounts, there isn't much of that. Then I thought, perhaps it's the implied rape. Still, there have been rape and sexual assaults in other movies that managed to walk away with only an R-rating. As far as violence, anything that isn't a gunshot to the head would probably land you in the PG-13 realm.
So how did this movie get the Scarlet Letter of movie ratings?
To me, it seems like all the reviewers were suggesting the same thing:
The movie received an NC-17 rating because of its intensity.
Almost everyone commented on how disturbed they were by the scene. Some called it "heartbreaking," while others said it was "devastating to watch."
But wait a minute! None of those things should qualify a film for the same rating normally reserved for pornography...should it?
When I sat down to write this post, I kept thinking about movies like Superbad and The Hang-over--films that featured extreme sexual situations, violence, and incredibly coarse language still managed to land only R ratings.
So is the review board saying it's okay to have sex and violence onscreen when it's in a comedy?
It almost seems like Blue Valentine is being punished for being too...dramatic.
The strange thing is that in the current cultural climate, you can see gang rape on Sons of Anarchy on F/X, prostitution and rough sex on Mad Men and meth dealers on Breaking Bad both on AMC, and an entire hospital getting shot up on Grey's Anatomy.
I'd also like to argue that many of Blue Valentine's reviews were stellar. Critics are saying it's one of the best films of the year. So in addition to handling controversial topics, they might actually be doing a better job of it than many of their counterparts.
So when all is said and done, is the only thing shocking about this story the rating itself?