The Notorius Betty Page
The Notorious Bettie Page, directed by Mary Harron and written by Harron and Guinevere Turner, opens in the lower mainland April 28th. CJSF’s Susan Grossman reviews…
The Notorious Bettie Page, directed by Mary Harron and written by Harron and Guinevere Turner, is a film about the “pin-up queen of the universe,” Bettie Page. The film follows Page, adeptly played by Gretchen Mol, beginning with her days as a young church-going schoolgirl in the South to her rise as an iconoclastic sex symbol and her subsequent return to religious life.
The film, which opens with a demurely dressed Page sitting on a wooden bench in the chambers of the United States Senate, is told using a series of flashbacks. As Page sits in the Senate chambers we learn that she is awaiting her turn to come before a panel investigating the autoerotic death of a young boy. The boy’s death, believed by Senators to be linked to the sexually explicit bondage photos taken of Page, is meant to serve as a touchstone for the conservatism of the 1950’s.
The film, however, fails to adequately capture the level of conservatism in Page’s era. As a result, twenty-first century filmgoers who are privy to the endless stream of sexually explicit images available on the internet, in magazines, and on television, will find the photographs of Page to be tame and dated. In addition, many of the Senator’s moralistic statements about the “wrongs” of bondage and sexual role playing games come off as prudish and farcical. These statements are prone to elicit laughter from the audience when that is not the anticipated or desired reaction.
In spite of this weakness, Mol does a phenomenal job of embodying the necessary mix of sexuality and naivety to make Page a believable pawn in a larger fetishistic game. Her performance is well worth the price of admission.
The Notorious Betty Page will be released in the lower mainland on April 28th. To learn more about the film visit the official site at, www.thenotoriousbettiepage.com/.