2005
Rated: R for nudity, sexual themes, and mild language.
Genre: Drama Comedy Biopic
Directed By: Mary Harron
Running Time: 1:30
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 10/02/06
DVD Features:
Commentary by actress Gretchen M, director Mary Harron, and co-writer Guinevere Turner
"Pin-Up Queen of the Universe" featurette
"Presenting Bettie Page" - archival footage with the real life Bettie Page
Trailer
THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE

 


Man: You don’t have to be ashamed of what you did.
Bettie:
I’m not ashamed. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden, weren’t they? When they sinned, is when they put clothes on.

It’s as if someone took a picture of my fantasies and plastered them on-screen. Bettie Page in the form of Gretchen Mol. It’s almost like a gift to me, and yes I’m vain enough to think this film is a gift to me. It features two of the most beautiful women who ever lived combined, along with one hell of a fantastic movie to boot. I was glad this wasn’t just a case of watching Mol as Page for ninety minutes. There’s a story, there’s great direction, and there’s actual commentary. “The Notorious Bettie Page” is yet another ninety minute bit of speculation on Ms. Page’s life, because it’s a known fact, no one is very sure of what really happened in her life from a child to her disappearance from society’s mainstream. But then again, Harron’s film is not an attempt to delve into the secrets and demons of Paige, too much. It’s instead a sweet, risqué, and entertaining celebration of the woman known as Bettie Page. Page, as you should know by now, is quite possibly one of the most revered pin-up models of all time.

First starting as a model for underground magazines, then acting in bondage films, and eventually just fading away, she’s continued, however, to live in the mainstream culture for decades showing influences in comic books, films, music, porn, and models. She’s the archetypal polar opposite to Conservative America’s idea of beauty. A gorgeous and incredibly sexy woman who didn’t mind stripping and engaging in porno films, yet was still at heart wholesome, naïve, and incredibly religious. What will either turn people off, or garner more admirers is the fact that the film is approached with a slightly campy nature.  

Though Harron approaches Page’s history of domestic abuse, and molestation with a stern dramatic tone, Page’s foray into modeling and acting is approached with a slight comedic tone that makes the film entertaining. Page’s modeling and eventual starring in bondage films, then meeting the famous Bunny Yeager (The understated Sarah Paulson), is taken with a smile, and all of her actions are depicted as merely a naïve child-like girl having fun with her friends and making money doing so. Gretchen Mol who is already a pure goddess, plays Bettie Page another goddess.

As Bettie she’s lovably naïve, but fierce, she has a child-like innocence, yet she’s incredibly sexy. Mol’s performance, nonetheless, is probably one of the best in years, as she embodies Page warts and all, and portrays her as a lovable girl who is simply trying to find a path, and purpose. On the flipside, Lilli Taylor proves yet again she’s one of the most underrated actresses, playing Liv Klaw, the blunt and friendly photographer who’d be put under the light of the law with her brother Irving Klaw (Chris Bauer, who also pulls in a great performance). Harran’s depiction of the legend is simplistic, but filled with excellent direction, and a mood that’s genuinely novel.

Most of the film is black and white, until Bettie is able to escape the confines of her life, to which the lens becomes a very pastoral colorful world, which gives it the sense of old fifties sitcoms in which everything is bright and pristine. “The Notorious Bettie Page” should go hand in hand with “Kinsey” demonstrating society’s inability to accept sexuality, and fear change. And if you can put your disbelief on hold (She actually wasn’t aware that bondage was frowned upon?), it’s a great piece of filmmaking.

The fact that Harron doesn't delve too deeply into Page's mysterious life, and presents us with a sugar-coated film, works in favor of the film instead of against it. Harron's "The Notorious Bettie Page" is a wonderful celebration of the legend known as Bettie Page.

  • For the other readers whom are utterly in love with Mol, she has many full frontal nudity scenes. Yama hama!
  • “Browncoats” may recognize Sarah Paulson who plays photographer Bunny Yeager. She was in “Serenity,” as the ill-fated doctor explaining the Reaver’s origins.
  • Photographers Irving and Paula Klaw were not married, as many critics stated in reviews for the film. They were in reality, and in the film, a brother and sister team.
  • While Bettie Page now licenses the use of her name to promote various collectables (such as figurines, t-shirts, and books of her pin-up photos), she herself does not make public appearances, stating "I want people to remember me the way I was."
  • Bettie is close friends with Hugh Hefner, who is a fan.
  • Paige Richards has also played Bettie Page, which is a sub-par, but ambitious low-budget depiction of the last days of Bettie Page’s career mixed with recreations of her bondage films.

 

 

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