The Notorious Bettie Page (2006)
A somewhat shallow biopic, The Notorious Bettie Page is kept afloat by an incandescent performance from Gretchen Mol, at one time the appointed future Hollywood It Girl. Mol imbues the same transcendent mix of girl-next-door sweetness and sex-kitten-in-training vivaciousness that Page was famous for; she was, in the same moment, both angel and temptress, and yet never understood the impact. We get your standard assembly of biopic moments but some intriguing past elements barely get touched on, like the potential sexual abuse Page may have experienced from her father. There’s a ripe conflict of sex vs. sin waiting to be explored that also seems to get the most cursory of exposure. Director Mary Haron (American Psycho) cleverly stages the movie as if it was a product of Page’s own time, but it also places the film in an artistic limbo because of its strident, possibly anachronistic forward thinking. Bettie Page is such an interesting person and had such a lasting impact, not just on the debate over what constitutes pornography, but the movies fails to tell us why she should still even be relevant. It feels somewhat of a shame that such a person, simultaneously a devout Christian and bondage pin-up queen, doesn’t get a better character showcase. Still, the movie is well made and Mol is luminous, imitating Page’s cheesecake poses and faces to perfection. The Notorious Bettie Page would have worked better looking harder at what made its title heroine notorious and memorable still to this day.
Nate’s Grade: B-