The upcoming summer movie season has plenty of comedies—Funny People, Year One, The Hangover—but, chances are, the only one that will still be talked about come September is Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno. When twenty minutes of the comedy screened at the South by Southwest Film Festival a couple of weeks back, bloggers and Twitterers bent over backwards to think of new ways to use the word “subversive”. Unfortunately, the film might be too subversive. As The Wrap reported yesterday, Bruno was given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America on its first submission “because of numerous sexual scenes that the ratings board considers over the line.” Those scenes include, but are not limited to, Mr. Cohen’s character, Bruno, apparently having “anal sex with another man” and also gallivanting around a campground while naked. Of course, considering that Borat featured Mr. Cohen and his morbidly obese partner wrestling naked on a hotel bed for the better part of five minutes, we’re sure this will all be resolved by the time the film reaches theaters on July 10th.
Here’s the thing though: what if it wasn’t?
Say Mr. Cohen decides he wants to keep all the naughty bits in his movie because he feels removing them would constitute a castration (har har) of his creative vision. Would Universal have the guts and foresight to actually release a movie that was rated for adults only? Conventional wisdom states that major studios will never put their name on a movie tagged with an NC-17 rating, especially one that they hope to be a summer tent pole. However, that kind of thinking seems leftover from a time gone by. Besides the fact that releasing Bruno as an NC-17 would give the film all the marketing it would ever need—we can already imagine the daily banner headlines on Huffington Post and Drudge Report leading up to the release—the “gotta see” factor would be through the roof. Seriously, who in their right mind wouldn’t run out to watch Bruno on opening weekend just to find out what all the fuss was about? The film would be a total smash.
Don’t get us wrong; we know this will never happen. Bruno will get trimmed and resubmitted, the MPAA will slap a cursory R-rating on it and everyone will go home happy. But we think America is ready for an NC-17 release—between what Hollywood gets away with on television (Gossip Girl) and in R-rated movies (Watchmen), we can’t imagine seeing anything worse than we already have! We just hope that someday a studio has the guts to go through with it. We’re certain their desire for filth and scandal will be handsomely rewarded.