The Notorious Bettie Page
A Film Review by Reginald Williams
Review Date: 4/15/2006
The Notorious Bettie Page may seem to be a movie about the infamous, scantily clad 1950’s pin-up queen who took risqué (by the standards of that era) photographs but that is only one of this film’s main attributes. The real story in The Notorious Bettie Page is that of a devote Christian woman who grew up in an adverse environment and whom had to exist in a world gripped by war, communism and the fear of social degradation.
Gretchen Mol (Bettie Page), who has had numerous smaller and supporting roles over her career, is given the type of leading role most aspiring actresses’ dream of. She knows this is her big opportunity and you see that on screen. When Page goes to acting class and then to subsequent auditions and reads the provided dialogue, Page’s character and Mol’s acting ability shine through. Page’s religion also peaks through the frames of this film in each and every decision she makes throughout her illustrious career. When asked by a photographer if she thinks God would approve of her posing naked for pictures and a pay check, Page decisively responds: “Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden. It was only when they sinned that God made them put cloths on.”
There are many surprising realizations in this film about Bettie Page’s life that most viewers will be unfamiliar with if they haven’t read a detailed biography of her life. Page endures many physical hardships while growing up and as a young lady in a big city all by herself. These events a skillfully alluded to be by Director Mary Harron’s camera throughout the film’s entirety. During its run time, the viewer is also inundated with a film shot in black and white and in a few select instances, Technicolor. Many of Page’s most famous poses and pictures are recreated right before the viewer’s eyes. Mol approaches this scenes fearlessly, which is very appropriate since for a majority of the pictures taken of Page, she exuded a youthful happiness and vivacity.
There are a host of other actors and actresses within The Notorious Bettie Page that give good supporting work but as the word “support” implies, they are only assisting Gretchen Mol’s Bettie Page come to life on the screen. It’s Mol who is the star and stand out in this film. She and Mary Harron inject vitality into the tale of Bettie Page, bringing her and that sordid period in America’s history back into the spotlight.