The decision to release the film unrated comes after a contentious battle between the MPAA and “Bully’s” backers, including its director Lee Hirsch and Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein.
The MPAA gave the film — which followed bullied children around for one year and spoke to the families of kids who committed suicide — an R-rating over six uses of the “F” expletive, a decision the Weinstein Company appealed to no avail. Despite criticism from celebrities, including Meryl Streep and Justin Bieber, politicians, educators and writers — who believed the film would be unable to reach its target audience without a PG-13 rating — the MPAA and its chairman, former Senator Chris Dodd, did not back down from their decision.
In the news release, the Weinstein Company credited the efforts of all who called for “Bully” to be given a PG-13 rating. Michigan teen Katy Butler collected nearly half a million signatures on her Change.org petition and has spoken openly about her experiences of being bullied.
When Celebritology’s Jen Chaney recently asked Hirsch if he would consider editing the film to get a lower rating, the director said he “would do anything to make a difference for kids that are bullied in this country and everywhere.” But he maintained that the crude language “is what makes the film powerful because it’s what makes bullying real.”
He reiterated this sentiment in the Weinstein Company’s statement: “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”
Indeed, without a rating, it will be up to theater owners to determine whether or not they show the film. After the Weinstein Company threatened to release the film without a rating, John Fithian, the National Association for Theater Owners president, said “Bully” would be treated like other unrated films and would automatically be given an NC-17 rating.
“Bully” has received positive reviews from the New Yorker, New York Magazine and other outlets. It opens Friday in a small number of New York City and Los Angeles Theaters. Request for comment from AMC Theaters has not been returned.