A little rant about “Boyhood” and the MPAA - What’s wrong with this picture? I mean, really?

The omnipotent MPAA, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to bestow the restrictive "R" rating on Richard Linklater's Boyhood for its release in the United States. If you aren't aware of this movie, it's a groundbreaking motion picture in which a fictional boy named Mason (portrayed by the brilliant Ellar Coltrane) is followed from childhood through adolescence. Yes, this has been done before, but as a doc, not a narrative. His parents are played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Approximately 10 minutes are devoted to each year from ages seven to 18, shot in real time over the course of three days every year, for 12 years.

I saw the movie several weeks ago and spoke with the actors afterward. You can see my capsule review and their comments, along with photos of the post-screening Q&A, HERE. My audio recording of the complete 29 minute Q&A is posted below.

Most who've seen the film, myself included, will likely tell you how moving it is for anyone, of any age, but how it could particularly impact (and positively) the very kids of the ages focused on in the film -- after all, the movie is about a boy reaching adolescence and how he and those around him deal with it

Yet the MPAA's R rating ensures that only those 17 and older may see the film on their own. Anyone up to and including age 16 is only allowed to attend with a parent or guardian. What's wrong with this picture? (Asked both rhetorically as well as literally.) Officially, the R is "for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use."  Well, duh. Imagine making a truly authentic film about a boy growing to adulthood without these elements. But I digress...

Another sad irony of this ill-informed decision is that Linklater gave Coltrane the freedom not to do what made him uncomfortable. If anything, the potentially offensive content is toned down and tame in comparison to what another filmmaker might have done, filling the film with copious amounts of sex and substances to match audience expectations. You really won't find anything scandalous here. 

Fortunately, some exhibitors are choosing (wisely, in my opinion) to make their own decisions about who to admit. The IFC Center in New York has stated, "While the MPAA has assigned BOYHOOD a rating of R, recommending that no one under 17 be admitted without a parent or guardian, IFC Center feels that the film is appropriate viewing for mature adolescents. Accordingly, the theater will admit high school age patrons at its discretion." (It should be noted that the IFC Center's sister company, IFC Films, is the picture's producer and distributor.)

This is not and will not be a lengthy rant about the MPAA's past ratings decisions, the sex vs. violence debate, or anything about the ratings of other films. That's been done ad nauseam. This is simply a little rant, as it were, and a pat on the back to the IFC Center for doing the right thing. Hopefully other theaters will follow suit.


NOTE: Boyhood's ratings in Canada, where each province grants their own:

British Columbia, Saskatchewan: PG for Coarse and Sexual Language, Drug Use
Alberta: 14A for Coarse Language
Manitoba: 14A for Coarse Language
Ontario: 14A for Coarse Language, Mature Theme
Quebec: G
(others not rated yet)

The website Parent Previews, which normally only provides film details for G, PG, and PG-13 films, made an exception and analyzed Boyhood. You can see their very detailed breakdown of the film's sex, violence, and profanity content HERE, keeping in mind it may be a spoiler. 

"Boyhood" Q&A Audio, Arclight Hollywood 6/16/14

Q&A after a special screening of "Boyhood" on Monday, June 16, 2014 at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood,…
  • Video Release: July 12, 2014
  • Length: 29.00 min
  • Views: 2

Boyhood - Official US Trailer (IFC Films) HD

www.boyhoodmovie.com Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of…
  • Video Release: April 25, 2014
  • Length: 1.77 min
  • Views: 541924


Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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  • Author: Larry Richman
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