My school teacher daughter likes movie actor Leonardo DiCaprio, but said she was taken back during her recent viewing of his latest film, the Wolf of Wall Street. It seems that along with a tale of cheating and deceit by money grubbing Wall Streeters, director Martin Scorsese tossed in a whole bunch of steamy sex scenes.
Both Mr. Scorsese and my daughter knew it was rated R - Restricted - meaning it is intended for people 17 years and older. This viewing guide was assigned by the movie industry trade association Motion Picture Association of America. Regarding Wolf of Wall Street, the MPAA specifically stated that the movie has sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and some violence.
She might have made a safer decision had she followed a review written by the Catholic News Service, catholicnews.com/movies.htm. Its rating on this film was “O” - morally offensive - a little finer point than that made by the MPAA. To the news service reviewer, Wolf of Wall Street “contains a benign view of sinful and illegal actions, domestic violence, strong sexual content, including graphic aberrant and adulterous sexual activity and full nudity, drug use, frequent profanities, pervasive rough and crude language and a few gestures.”
Wow, what a difference. Yes, there are divergent opinions when it comes to movie reviews and guidelines. The safe way to figure out if a film suits your demeanor is to check out several reviews whenever possible. The MPAA review is obviously the most widely used and understood guide, but not the only. Besides Catholic News Service, longtime film reviewer and shareholder activist Nell Minnow does a fair assessment of movies on her “Movie Mom” blog, which you can find at beliefnet.com.
Minow actually liked Wolf of Wall Street, though her notes on its clearly spelled out that it contained those objectionable snippets of sex, drugs and rock and roll. And she even said that parts of the movie were more worthy of an MPAA rating of NC 17, which means anyone under 17 is not supposed to be allowed to view the film.
NC17 is a death warrant for general movies, and film makers will go to great lengths to avoid it. They’re apparently OK with an R rating, as studies have shown that between 1995 and 2012 that category was the most widely assigned, ahead of both PG and PG 13.
PG means parental guidance is advised. PG13 means parental guidance is strongly recommended. The other category used by MPAA is G, for general audience. Nowadays this is a relatively rare rating, as Hollywood types figure a G rating will be seen as too much of a film for little kids. Maybe that’s why the Christmas-time fare from Disney, Frozen, scored a PG rating (for mild action), though my 51-year-old nephew just saw it and reported back that “for 98 percent of the people, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.”
The PG rating is apparently for the other 2 percent.