Philomena was one of the best films I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It seems I’m not alone in thinking that either as it won the runner-up spot for the festival’s People’s Choice Award. Now, Stephen Frears’ terrific drama starring Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan can be seen by a general audience, as the MPAA overturned an initial R rating and is giving the film a PG-13.
Two uses of a certain word rhyming with “luck” earned it the restriction, disallowing viewers under 17 from seeing it without an adult. Although the MPAA had continued a bizarre custom to limit the ‘f’ word to one usage during a PG-13 film, that line has been crossed before (both Antwone Fisher and Ocean’s Eleven used that profanity twice and got a PG-13).
Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay) and attorney Bert Fields defended the film in front of the MPAA and helped overturned the rating successfully by arguing that the subject matter was not objectionable.
“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,” added director Stephen Frears. “I am overjoyed they’ve changed their ruling in order to give families like mine an opportunity to see this film together.”
A video that hit the Web last week featured Judi Dench portraying her M character from the James Bond movies and spoofed the MPAA’s decision to rate Philomena harshly. Executive Harvey Weinstein says he credits 007 producer Barbara Broccoli, Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes for giving Dench the permission to use the character in the campaign.
“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,” Weinstein said.
Philomena tells the true story of journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) who helped a devout woman, Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), look for her long-lost son. Philomena conceived her son out of wedlock when she was a nun many years earlier, whereafter the Irish-Catholic convent gave the boy away to an American family.
The drama, which may bring Academy Award nominations to Dench and Coogan (for his screenplay), hits theatres in limited release on November 22nd.