Movie Review – The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)

Director: Mary Harron

Stars: Gretchen Mol, Chris Bauer, Cara Seymour, Sarah Paulson, Lili Taylor

A biopic of the pin-up icon Bettie Page, who was the target of a US Senate investigation for the pornographic nature of her bondage pictures.

I’ve been aware of Bettie Page but I’ve never really delved into her history. The Notorious Bettie Page jumps between different periods of her life, although it mostly settles on the part where she models and gets wrapped up in the whole bondage scene. I felt the first section of the movie was rushed, although it held some special interest for me as there were appearances by a couple of The Walking Dead actors. However, there were some important events in her life (a rape and a seemingly abusive marriage) that were basically shown in a montage. It feels like the movie wants to skip over these parts.

When the film gets to New York it shows how Bettie tried to make it as an actress but falls into modelling. I liked how Mol portrayed Page, she had a very carefree attitude, although in the film she does come across as rather naive and they played up the wide-eyed innocent nature of her. There was some wrestling with her conscience as she tried to reconcile what God would think, and I appreciated these moments as it gave her a bit more depth.

The main thing that people will probably take away is just how much things have changed and how acceptable things have become. It’s interesting to see how things have changed in just a few decades. Speaking of which, I felt the director captured the mood and tone of the era. One thing I didn’t like is that at the start of the film Bettie is called to the Senate, but by the end she doesn’t even need to testify. Perhaps this is to show how ignorant the Senate is and the fact that they made up their minds without even hearing testimonies from people who were involved in the scene.

Overall I think it was a decent film, but I do feel it was rushed and tried to fit in a whole lifetime into an hour and a half. I do think it’s worth watching though. Mol gives a great performance, Bettie Page is still an icon but I don’t think people know as much about her as, say, Marilyn, but this film is a good starting point.


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