Is an “R” rating the best thing that ever happened to “Bully”?
Producer Harvey Weinstein, who’s been campaigning to get the documentary a teen-friendly PG-13 rating, would argue not. “Kids want to see this movie, and they have to see this movie,” he told us last week. “If they see it, it makes the concept of a bully uncool.”
Yet Weinstein’s battle over the rating with the Motion Picture Association of America — he’s enlisted the support of Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Justin Bieber and a 17-year-old Michigan girl collecting thousands of petition signatures — has certainly drummed up a marvelous amount of publicity for the new film.
Is the MPAA feeling threatened? Hardly. Instead, the industry group got into the game Thursday night, when Chairman Chris Dodd hosted Weinstein, director Lee Hirsch, D.C. school chancellor Kaya Henderson, and the movie’s stars for a screening and discussion.
Why? “I care very much about the issue” of bullying, the former senator told us. Weinstein was already coming to town for the state dinner, so “I called Harvey and said, ‘We’ll have to deal with the ratings, but I care about this subject.’”
The movie mogul happily accepted. “There’s no animosity,” he told the packed house Thursday. “We disagree on a rating, but we don’t disagree about life and many other things.”
Dodd argued that the decades-old ratings system isn’t about a movie’s quality but a way to guide parents on issues like sexuality and bad language. “Bully”’s problem is a scene where nasty middle schoolers repeat a certain hot-button word too many times for PG-13. When Weinstein went to an appeals board, it upheld the MPAA’s “R.” Though he could have bleeped the words or released the film unrated, the impresario who elevated Oscar PR campaigns to a form of art instead took his case public.
Dodd tried to play diplomat Thursday (“It’s wonderful that people are engaged”), saying he hoped the movie’s message would outshine the ratings flap — only to get, well, bullied a little.
“The R is stepping over all over that, and that’s the problem!” Hirsch interrupted. “It’s stepping over these familes and the impact that this film can make.” The director kept after Dodd until Weinstein stepped in to call for peace.
Please understand, he soothed, “that the senator is a good man. He wasn’t at the ratings board. And I have a feeling that if he was, he would have voted our way.”
Read earlier: Harvey Weinstein protests R rating given his ‘Bully’ documentary directed at teens, 3/2/12
VIPs at state dinner, 3/14/12