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In a victory for director Stephen Frears and Judi Dench, The Weinstein Co. has won its appeal to lower the rating of British dramedy Philomena from an R to PG-13 after receiving an exemption for two non-sexual uses of the f-word.
Harvey Weinstein‘s company is no stranger to taking issue with the ratings board, having waged high-profile appeals for The King’s Speech and Bully, both of which received an R for language.
In a high-profile video, Dench, who stars in Philomena, personally appealed to the Classification and Ratings Administration Board to lower the rating. Steve Coogan — who stars opposite Dench and co-wrote the film — joined TWC and lawyer Bert Fields at the appeals hearing Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Following the victory, Weinstein thanked the James Bond filmmaking team for their assistance in fighting the R rating. “We owe this victory to Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond series, Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes who because of their relationship with Judi Dench gave permission to spoof the ratings system [in a video] using the M character. We know that went a long way into shedding light on the themes of the movie and the fact that the PG-13 rating was correct. We are glad the MPAA has a good sense of humor and with the cooperation of Barbara and her team it was proven once again no one does it better than James Bond. And my sincerest congratulations to Steve Coogan, who went to the MPAA and defended the case personally.”
TWC has big plans for Philomena, based on the 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith about Philomena Lee, an Irish-Catholic woman who was forced decades earlier to put her illegitimate baby up for adoption in the U.S. The story follows Philomena (Dench) and the journalist (Coogan) as they travel to the U.S. to find the child. TWC believes the film will be an awards contender.
Philomena opens in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 22 before making a moderate nationwide push on Nov. 27, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Movie-going spikes over the long holiday weekend, and TWC believes Philomena will play to families and serve as potent counter-programming to more commercial fare.
Last year, the ratings board granted a language exemption to Bully, which also contained more than one use of the f-word.
Under the rules of the rating board, any film containing more than one use of the word f–k automatically receives an R. Violence is far more subjective.
“Philomena is a film that evokes an overwhelmingly positive response from people. I’m delighted children have already seen it and have responded to it so positively. We felt the MPAA had made the wrong decision in handing the film, which has no violence or lewd material and the bare minimum of adult language, an ‘R’ rating. I am overjoyed they’ve changed their ruling in order to give families like mine an opportunity to see this film together. Now we can let the whole world see it,” Frears said in a statement.
Added Fields: “The MPAA’s stance on language often proves itself to be too black and white, not taking into account a film’s overall subject matter. Philomena is one such instance. To put this film in the same category as sexually explicit and violent films would have been a disservice not only to the film but audiences as well. This is a huge victory for the filmmakers and TWC.”
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