R-Rated Pot: Tame Meryl Streep Movie Got Smacked with 'High' Rating

From the NYT: "...[T]here is no violence in It’s Complicated, and the bedroom scenes are decidedly tame by contemporary standards. Instead, the R rating — which experts say could limit the box-office potential of the Universal Pictures film — comes largely from a sequence in which Steve Martin and Meryl Streep smoke marijuana."


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The rating has kicked up dust in Hollywood, with movie bloggers starting blistering attacks on the M.P.A.A. for being out of touch. The marijuana lobby is equally miffed. “This is an absurd ruling rooted in old cultural thinking,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Universal and Mr. Martin unsuccessfully appealed, seeking a PG-13 rating.

Conservative groups, meanwhile, find themselves in the rare position of cheering the ratings system instead of condemning it. Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, which also monitors movies, said “It’s Complicated” was a “rare instance” of the board getting a rating correct.

“The last I checked, smoking pot was still illegal, illicit behavior,” he said. “Too often material gets rated lower than it should be.”

Figuring prominently in the brouhaha are other depictions of marijuana in cinema, particularly the scene in the 1980 comedy “9 to 5” showing Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin getting high and raiding the refrigerator. Its rating was PG.

“This demonstrates a real hilarity and inconsistency, especially given how far the medical marijuana movement has come,” said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California.

The rumpus comes amid informal discussion about tweaking the ratings formula, particularly where R is involved. The M.P.A.A., a trade organization financed by the major studios, has ruminated about dividing the R rating into new categories. Already, the industry refers informally to movies that are “soft R” or “hard R.”

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