Anybody who has seen "The Sessions," which opened last weekend to strong business in limited release, would likely agree that the film deserves an R rating, assigned by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for "strong sexuality including graphic nudity and frank dialogue."
But 100% of that "graphic nudity" comes from Helen Hunt, who plays the film's sex surrogate and often wears not a stitch of clothing. John Hawkes, who plays Mark O’Brien, the polio patient who hires Hunt to lose his virginity, is bare from the waist up, yet the actor never does the Full Monty. The inescapable question: Why does Hunt have to act in her birthday suit, and Hawkes doesn’t?
Ben Lewin, who wrote and directed the film, lays most of the blame on the ratings board.
"My task was not to challenge the MPAA," Lewin said, adding that any male frontal nudity, especially showing O’Brien in an aroused state, would guarantee a NC-17 rating. Even though the MPAA and the National Assn. of Theater Owners say that adults-only rating can and should be commercially viable, several large chains don't customarily book NC-17 films, and a large number of newspapers and television networks bar advertisements for such movies.