Thursday, March 8, 2007

Review: The Notorious Bettie Page (2006)

I was not entirely sure what I would think of this film when I watched it today. It's been on my to see list since I read rave reviews of Gretchen Mol's titular performance, but I also read that the film wasn't nearly as good as her performance.

After watching it, I believe I might need to revisit the Sketchy's, because this is certainly one of the best made films of 2006. The film is a biopic of former pin-up queen Betty Page, focusing on her photographic and film work as a gateway into her actual personality and beliefs.

The technical film making is spot on: the various qualities of black and white/color film stock capture the actual passing of time in the film in a realistic way, while adding a visual interest many biopics neglect in favor of superficial analysis. The most interesting visual trick is showing the actual covers of magazines Bettie appeared on with Gretchen Mol posing as if the shoot were happening live. The direction is spot on and I am eager to see more work from Mary Harron (of American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol Fame). If she keeps choosing smart projects like these, she will certainly become a force to be reckoned with in film.

The performances are terrific, especially Gretchen Mol as Bettie and Lili Taylor as Paula Klaw - a photographer who shot most of Bettie's work. Mol captures the purity and innocence of Bettie with great ease, while Taylor pulls off a funny - yet caring - money loving business woman to perfection.

The film is great, but be forewarned: there is a whole lot of nudity and bondage in the film - tastefully executed, but there none the less. If this makes you uncomfortable, I probably wouldn't recommend seeing it. But for those that can handle the content, The Notorious Bettie Page is a surprisingly uplifting, inspiring tale of a woman who wanted to live her life the best way she knew how, no matter what.

Varb For Me