This Film Is Not Yet Rated ★★★

The rating badges Hollywood movies are stamped with – G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 – have a rather direct influence on ticket and post-ticket sales. However, the rules of acquiring a rating are opaque, the people who rate the movies never held accountable, and the appeal process too secretive. The attempts to reverse-engineer all of it yield fascinating results. As an example, the most contentious boundary – between R and NC-17 – seems to be set up backwards, with the R classification allowing for immense amounts of violence, but not even a second of healthy, adult sex.

This film is not yet rated tackles this very part of Hollywood’s infrastructure. Half of the movie is an interesting, insightful (if awfully one-sided) take on the double standards of MPAA ratings system. Maybe we don’t get to hear from the Hollywood’s most famous directors, but some well-known provocateurs show up, make persuasive arguments, and bring with them some revealing (literally and figuratively) examples.

However, the movie shoots itself in the foot with its other half: the embarrassing, sensationalist “investigation” (yes, they’re actually hiring a P.I. at the beginning) that tries to uncover the identities of the raters… followed by the submission of the movie itself to a rating process. Both are huge gimmicks filled with mini-gimmicks (going through people’s trash, goofy voice re-enactments, car chases), and result in absolutely nothing – unless you count undermining our trust in the rest of the documentary.

Perhaps the director thought there wasn’t enough material to fill the entire 100-minute movie, but a number of other options are just too obvious: editing the documentary down to one hour; talking more about the history of the Production Code in Hollywood; comparisons to other forms of censorship, or even just different media (the infamous Hot Coffee mod must have happened right before this documentary entered production).

If you’re interested in the subject, this might still be worth watching – but just fast-forward through the lame parts, and use the saved time to rewatch your favourite NC-17 movie, with your kids or otherwise. You be the judge.