Sundance Fave ‘Blue Valentine’ Slapped with NC-17

It's not clear if the Weinstein Company will make cuts or will appeal the board's decision

In a shocking decision, the Motion Picture Association of America has slapped “Blue Valentine” with the dreaded NC-17 rating.

The Weinstein Company has high hopes for the drama and has been planning to mount an awards campaign for the Sundance pick-up.

"Blue Valentine's" NC-17 is the latest in a string of controversial decisions by the MPAA ratings board. In the last few months, it handed out R ratings to two award-winning documentaries — "The Tillman Story" and "A Film Unfinished." Both lost their appeals.

Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, the indie film drew strong reviews from critics who hailed its unflinching look at the breakdown of a marriage. Those who have seen the film were surprised by the decision, noting that while the movie contains sex scenes with some nudity, they were not exploitative.

The filmmakers now have four options. They can, of course, accept the rating. They can appeal it to a board composed of distributors, exhibitors and industry executives; they can edit the film and resubmit it; or they can release the film unrated.

A spokesperson for the studio had no comment, and it was not immediately clear if the filmmakers would make the cuts necessary to earn an R rating or appeal the board’s decision.

The MPAA would not comment on its reasons for the rating, noting that it maintains a posture of silence on all films until the rating has been accepted.

If it stands, an NC-17 rating would hobble the film's roll-out. Many theater chains will not carry NC-17 films. Worse, major retailers such as Wal-Mart refuse to stock NC-17 DVDs.

It could also impact the movie's awards chances. Only one movie, 1969's "Midnight Cowboy," has ever earned a Best Picture Oscar while carrying an X or NC-17 rating.

The Weinstein Company bought U.S., Canadian and Pan-Asian satellite rights to "Blue Valentine" at Sundance for a reported $1 million.