[Story updated, 11:03am] In disagreement with the MPAA’s proposed “R” rating, the Weinstein Company, which produced Bully (set for release this week) has taken the decision to release the documentary without a rating at all. As reported by Entertainment Weekly’s Inside Movies blog, the small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real,” said director Lee Hirsch of this reversal.
What this means is that movie theatre owners will be left to decide who gets to see this movie. National Association of Theatre Owners (N.A.T.O.) president John Fithian told Screen Comment, “each individual theater company will decide if they want to play the movie or not, consistent with their own company’s policies on unrated movies.” Fithian added that if theatre owners decide to show the movie, “they should treat it as an R-rated movie, given the fact that the movie was assigned an R by the ratings board and the content of the movie has not been changed since then.”
More than likely, this should all play out without too much grumbling as the film gets its national rollout (it will open in N.Y. and L.A. this week). Besides, this kind of much-ado-about-nothing generates wonderful P.R.–everybody wins, from film fans to movie theatre owners, and awareness of the problem of bullying grows exponentially.
The film tells the story of several schoolchildren who were victimized by their classmates–the underlying issue of bullying being a serious childhood ill. Bully struck a chord nationally and a grassroots effort was born out of it to promote a cause. In an Entertainment Weekly article on the subject a reader commented:
This new move by Weinstein to release Bully without a rating comes on the heel of a heated battle led by Weinstein and legion supporters in the film industry. The studio led the effort to convince the M.P.A.A. to reverse its initial ratings verdict. Harvey Weinstein actively campaigned for the move, and nearly half a million people signed a petition from Katy Butler, a Michigan high school student and former bullying victim, on Change.org to urge the MPAA to lower the rating.
Bullying has always existed and will always exist, because kids will be kids (and they can be cruel). Films like Bully, though not the definitive answer to the problem, help once again shed the light on a societal problem which can mark individuals permanently. What will hopefully come of it (and every other documentary on the topic which will follow) is how we detect and punish it at the institutional level, consistently and effectively, through laws.
Part of the reason why the grassroots movement grew exponentially was because of Harvey Weinstein’s involvement. The King’s Speech producer is a participant in all his company’s projects, but “Bully 2012” showed a movie producer who cared deeply for social issues. It’s not surprising, that’s the kind of producer Weinstein is: involved, genuine and human (his difficult temper notwithstanding). Steven Zeitchik of the L.A. Times has reported him as saying, “I have four daughters, and this is a movie about making the world better for them.” Director Lee Hirsch said he was moved by Weinstein, who had “tears in his eyes” when he emerged from an appeals meeting at the MPAA offices.