"Bully" will be released unrated on March 30, despite a push from the distributor, The Weinstein Company, and celebrities like Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep to lower the rating from R to PG-13.
"Furthering proof that the R rating for some language is inappropriate for a film that's meant to educate and help parents, teachers, school officials and children with what's become an epidemic in schools around the country, the fight against the rating continues on," The Weinstein Company said in a statement obtained by OnTheRedCarpet.com.
The Lee Hirsch documentary depicts the troubling trend of bullying in schools across America and garnered the restricted rating due to the depiction of real-life language used by bullies.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the R rating is there because it's real," Hirsch said in a statement. "It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we're grateful for the support we've received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it's up to the theaters to let them in."
Michigan high school student and bullying victim Katy Butler started a petition on Change.org to get the MPAA to lower the rating to PG-13, so that more teens can see the film. At press time, the petition had been signed by nearly half a million supporters, including 26 Congress members.
"We are writing to express our sincere disappointment in the MPAA's decision to issue an 'R' rating for the soon-to-be-released documentary Bully," the advocacy website Change.org said in a statement. "This important project shows the real life anguish of many teenagers in this country who are tormented, harassed, and bullied by their peers. This truth should be shared with as wide an audience as is appropriate and possible. We believe an R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is desperately important."
The Weinstein Company appealed the R rating, but it has been upheld by the MPAA, which dictates film ratings.
"We respect the viewpoints of members of Congress and the public and Hollywood celebrities who care deeply about an issue that is troubling our nation," MPAA spokesman Howard Gantman said in a statement obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
The Weinstein Company said that Depp, Streep and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees have all shown their support for the film. The cause has also drawn the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Lovato and Justin Bieber.
"The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what's right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves," The Weinstein Company President of Marketing Stephen Bruno said in a statement. "We're working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country."
DeGeneres spoke about the documentary on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" earlier in the month and said, "the lessons that the kids learn from this movie are more important than any words that they might hear and they're words that they already know anyway."
"Bully" is slated to hit theaters on March 30. Watch the trailer below.