The Notorious Bettie Page

on April 14, 2006 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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A good subject is treated badly in Mary Harron's underwhelming and mostly black-and-white portrait of Bettie Page (a bland Gretchen Mol), a sweet Nashville girl who in the 1950s became a modeling sensation for fans of bondage, fetishism and leatherwear. It's a provocative tale, but Harron can't or won't get a handle on Page, who was sexually abused by her father but still went into a profession where she regularly displayed her bodily charms. That hints at a complexity in her character that the film never approaches. Similarly, Page's conflict between her suggestive job and her religious beliefs is barely addressed, seeming more like an afterthought in the film. Even her odd, naive chasteness at a time when she readily stripped naked for photographers isn't explored in any great depth. No doubt, there's more to Bettie Page than meets the eye, but you wouldn't know it from this affectless, pointless movie. Starring Gretchen Mol, Lili Taylor and Jared Harris. Directed by Mary Harron. Written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner. Produced by Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel and Christine Vachon. A Picturehouse release. Drama. Rated R for nudity, sexual content and some language. Running time: 91 min
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