“Bully” finally has its PG-13 rating.
After weeks of haggling with the MPAA and ultimately deciding to release the film unrated, the Weinstein Co. announced Thursday that it reached an agreement with the film board, allowing a slightly modified version of “Bully” to be released with PG-13 designation. The changes, according to the L.A. Times, involve removing the audio during three early uses of the F-word in the film; a key scene on a school bus in which Alex Libby — the central, relentlessly bullied teen in the movie — is assaulted and cursed at by peers remains intact with all three F-words present and accounted for. Ordinarily, more than two uses of the obscenity that got Ralphie Parker in trouble will bump an MPAA rating from a PG-13 to an R.
The new version of “Bully” will be released April 13, when an expanded rollout of the movie is planned in 115 theaters. The PG-13 rating allows preteens and teens — an audience at whom the movie’s anti-bullying message is directed — to see it without adult accompaniment. The non-rated version wil continue to screen in the five multiplexes in New York and L.A. where it opened last weekend.
This is good news — “Bully” is a movie that young people should be able to freely see and discuss. But it also raises the question: Why couldn’t this change have been made weeks ago?
That’s because the Weinstein Co. and the makers of “Bully” pursued the usual appeals avenues with the MPAA, asking for reconsideration of the rating without making changes. When the appeal was denied, numerous individuals — including a number of notable celebrities — threw their support behind the movie being released as is.
When I asked Lee Hirsch, the doc’s director, three weeks ago whether he would be willing to remove some of those F-words in the manner he has now done, he seemed open to it.
“I would do anything to make a difference for kids that are bullied in this country and everywhere,” he said. “I actually think that the language is what makes this film powerful because it’s what makes the bullying real.”
Given that the Weinstein Co. released a PG-13 version of its Academy Award-winning “The King’s Speech” at this same time last year, removing some of Colin Firth’s F-words in order to bring a wider audience to the movie, it’s not a surprise that some concessions were ultimately made to earn “Bully’s” PG-13 rating.
But by investing so much time in fighting the MPAA’s admittedly absurd policy, the makers of “Bully” kept their film’s name in the headlines for weeks.That’s the kind of solid, semi-stealth marketing Harvey Weinstein is known for, and the kind that, in this case, brought increased attention to a worthy documentary.