The Weinstein Company Called Their Lawyer and He’s a Good One Too

By  · Published on April 7th, 2017

The MPAA gave ‘3 Generations’ an R-rating and The Weinstein Company isn’t having it.

3 Generations

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decided that the Weinstein Company’s film 3 Generations deserves an R-rating. The MPAA claims that strong language and sexual references mean that the film isn’t suitable for younger viewers without parental consent. However, the Weinstein Company claims the rating would bar a necessary film from reaching a broad audience.

3 Generations tells the story of Ray (Elle Fanning) a transgender teenager. In the film, Ray and his mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) must search for Ray’s father to obtain consent for Ray to start his transition. Meanwhile, Ray’s grandmother (Susan Sarandon) struggles to accept Ray’s transformation from granddaughter to grandson.

Director and co-writer Gaby Dellal emphasized that she “[wanted] to speak to kids, to parents, and to grandparents everywhere in a common language of love and inclusion about a subject matter that is not only real and complicated but one that is important and alive today.” Both Dellal and the Weinstein Company fear that an R-rating would ban younger audiences and families from seeing the film and having a necessary discussion about the issues it raises. The consensus between Dellal, Sarandon, and Watts, who executive produced the film, is that the rating could limit the film’s reach. Further, it could hurt the film’s marketability and bottom line.

In 2010, The Weinstein Company faced a similar MPAA rating setback for Blue Valentine and The King’s Speech. Blue Valentine initially received an NC-17 which would have made the film an even tougher sell. Blue Valentine is emotionally brutal, but to me it doesn’t come close to earning that rating. Meanwhile, The King’s Speech, which won Best Picture at the Oscars in 2011, said a lot of naughty words, but not much else seemed to elicit a hard R-rating. Thankfully, the Weinstein Company is protesting the rating and getting advice from a legal heavy hitter to do so: David Boies. Boies will advise the company in a formal ratings board appeal per MPAA regulations.

Word to the wise, calling one’s lawyer is not a good way to speed off into the weekend. Sometimes it’s how someone ends a weekend outing, but it’s never how you start one. Occasionally, you need someone in your corner because shit hits the fan. This Thursday, the Weinstein Company needed someone with a bucket, mop, and some billable hours to spare. There is no better potential advocate than Boies.

David Boies is a “top Hollywood lawyer,” but his practice is more significant than business and legal affairs or trademark filings – not that those activities are bad they’re just not an accurate description of what Boies has done. Boies isn’t immediately familiar to most people, but he should be to any law student. Hell, he should be for anyone interested in LGBTQ issues. Boies was head of the legal team in the United States Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry (Hollingsworth). If that doesn’t sound relevant I’ll contextualize, it was a stepping stone case to legalizing same-sex marriage in California.

Hollingsworth is taught in many constitutional law classes as an example to illustrate standing (or lack there of). In the most basic of terms – perhaps too basic – standing makes someone prove they were harmed and that going to court will remedy that harm. The Supreme Court, well nearly every court, dreads millions of tiny lawsuits flooding the legal system. Through requiring standing the court narrows the perspective field of cases because it’s hard to prove direct harm. Courts fear that accepting harms with tenuous connections to actual actions would clog up the system. They fear a world in which everyone has to wait for justice like they pulled a number at a local deli. Justice, like deli ham, can go bad if not dealt with out in a timely manner.

In H0llingsworth the court ruled that citizens of the state of California could not sue to enforce a state law because they had no standing. The plaintiffs (the people suing) were proponents of Prop. 8 and the Supreme Court deemed their issue with the enforcement of the law a generalized grievance which is a big no-no for standing. Also, the suing party were not agents of the state so they couldn’t get standing that way either.

For the general public though, Hollingsworth is the first step toward marriage equality in both California and the United States. Obergefell v. Hodges (Obergefell) was the final step. In Obergefell the court found that under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, states have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize out of state same-sex marriages. TL; DR: Hollingsworth kicked the door in for marriage equality in California and then the country. Then, Obergefell walked through the door. So David Boies isn’t some typical entertainment lawyer, he’s participated in American history.

Additionally, he’s consulted the Weinstein Company before when the company had to deal with censorship with Carol and the previous appeal over the MPAA rating for Bully. Thus, Boies is a logical choice to consult on an MPAA rating appeal. Perhaps, in addition to being involved in American constitutional juris prudence regarding same sex marriage, Boies is at the front line of the battle for film rating changes. We’ll see.

If you’re interested in reading any court opinions on the cases mentioned you can find them on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) website. I personally love the Obergefell opinion because it has some stunning examples of legal writing from Justice Kennedy and the late Justice Scalia. Though this article won’t help you win any constitutional debates, Justice Scalia’s dissent may help you win some Scrabble games. He had a flair for flashy word choice.

Oh, and because I don’t want to manage a Cinnabon, none of this is legal advice.

Writer and law student.