Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
Hey, remember when Harvey Weinstein was all incensed last year about the R-rating given to The King’s Speech? It was at the same time as he was campaigning to appeal the NC-17 given to Blue Valentine, so you might have missed the much more minor controversy about Tom Hooper’s film. The rating for Blue Valentine was successfully appealed, but the R given to The King’s Speech was not. (The rating was given for a string of curses, including a many f-bombs, uttered by Colin Firth as King George VI as he tries to break through his stutter.) A lawyer for The Weinstein Company invoked the First Amendment when talking about the R rating, saying “it should strike fear in the heart of every director and producer.”
Now, with twelve Oscar nominations, Harvey Weinstein has basically said ‘fuck it’ with respect to the rating and integrity of the film. He wants to cut the movie to score a lower rating and, hopefully, bring kids into the audience.
The LA Times cites good numbers for the film in the UK, where the more generous rating (12a, achieved after a ratings appeal) allows more families to see the film, and quotes Mr. Weinstein saying,
The British numbers are huge because the rating lets families see the movie together. Tom [Hooper, director] and I are trying to find a unique way to do this that keeps his vision of the movie.
First up, it seems disingenu0us to cite the UK box office performance of the film without taking into account that The King’s Speech quite possibly tells a story that is of interest to a larger audience there than in the US. Are families with teen and pre-teen kids really going to flock to the movie? I like the idea quite a bit, but it seems unlikely. (Or perhaps not — after I’d written that Fandango sent out a press release announcing a 76% ticket-buying bump for the film after the Oscar nominations were announced.)
Is it worth gambling the integrity of the movie on those numbers? Harvey obviously thinks so. Why not just educate the audience to understand that the R rating is for language and nothing else; under-17s could still go with their families.
Then there’s the fact that the scene in question is a key part of the film with respect to the establishment of the relationship between characters played by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. It’s also tremendously entertaining, and one of the more memorable moments in the movie. How do you cut the ‘fuck’s without mangling the scene?
The good news is that if the cuts are made, it won’t be until after the Oscars are handed out. The idea is to score a boatload of trophies, then get the PG-13 version out into theaters in order to ride the wave of interest that will obviously arise. I walk away from this thinking, look, filmmaking and distribution is obviously a business. Harvey Weinstein is, above all else, a businessman. Just don’t mistake him as a bastion defending artistic integrity. If acting as such will generate great promotion for a film, as with Blue Valentine, he’s all for it. Otherwise, watch out.