This Film is Not Yet Rated

I watched This Film is Not Yet Rated over the weekend. In it, Kirby Dick sets out to answer a very difficult and elusive question. The answer, unfortunately, just isn't all that interesting to me.

Dick tries to discover exactly who is the (mysterious and anonymous) MPAA ratings board. This is the secretive cabal that confers the R's and PG's on movies. A good portion of the movie is spent with him and his hired investigators, rifling through garbage cans and eavesdropping on lunch discussions. He discovers, amazingly enough, the board is made of people.

I would be more interested learning how the MPAA got its power, how it is able to maintain its iron-clad control over the system, and where are the cracks that may lead to breaking the system. While it's interesting to know the sorts of people on the board, the time spent on the issue is disproportionate to its significance.

Dick has some excellent interview subjects. I was pleased to see Wayne Kramer and Maria Bello talk about their experience with The Cooler, which may be one of my top-ten favorite movies of all time. They painted a credible argument that although the ratings board claimed they wanted NC-17 due to a fleeting bush shot, the real reason is that the movie had a scene of unrestrained and lingering female pleasure, and that's what they found disturbing.

I was deeply troubled with the re-enactment technique Dick used to portray phone calls he had no permission to record. I suspect he had recordings somewhere to back up the dramatic re-enactments, but it still felt dishonest. Further, I'm not sure they were even necessary.

The film careens wildly from meaty discussion of our society's tolerance of violence to conversations with the private investigators that could have been ripped from a reality television show. There are some very good bits, but ultimately there were too many shallow spots that left me disappointed.