Bettie Page grew up in a conservative religious family in Tennessee and became a photo model sensation in 1950s New York. Bettie's legendary pin-up photos made her the target of a Senate investigation into pornography, and transformed her into an erotic icon who continues to enthrall fans to this day.
The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.
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I am a movie goer and I go a lot. I have seen many, many people embodying real people on the big screen but nothing like this. The Oscar is little compared to what she did. The movie is also sharply directed and you don't doubt for a second she is Bettie Page. I am a big fun of pin up girls. I can't help it. I see those 50's and 60's housewives and I am like a kid in a candy store. Bettie might have made some stuff who some people could have found inappropriate but it wasn't sure not pervert, not evil, but she was terribly criticized and probably felt so bad about herself. Men took advantage of her, for a change. Does it ring a bell? Gretchen you're great! So is Bettie.
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Bettie Page was the most photographed woman of the '50s, and a look at both her life and the nature of sexuality in America at that time would make for a pretty solid biopic. But at 90 minutes, there's no hope of examining everything. That said, THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE does cover the broad strokes. It's very nicely photographed, in both black and white and a blast of chroma during the Miami period. I loved David Strathairn's bit part as Joseph McCarthy, a nice joke on his Edward R. Murrow performance. And the animated magazine covers was a novel touch; this is a well-produced little movie. But it's the nail-on-the-head casting of Gretchen Mol in the titular role that's the real reason to watch this. Mol is perfect; she's gorgeous and seems to imbue that almost innocent quality of the real-life Page, a woman who wasn't inhibited because she didn't see the harm in taking pictures in less (or no) clothing. I was already a fan of the actress, but to her immense credit, she brings the role to life on the screen. Her work here is top-notch. 7/10
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Sex sells but they weren't ready for the kinkiness. Director Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol) crafts out a respectably diverting, but moving bio-pic on legendary cult pin-up sensation Bettie Page. The narrative follows on through her southern childhood of a religious upbringing with a controlling mother to her quest of being an inspired actress (something and then it took off for her with the modelling jobs, especially her participation in outlawed bondage fetish photographs/and films that would cause a ruckus for their deviant nature and would become a target of a Senate investigation. She was a natural in what she did because she loved what she was doing, and became one of the world's first sex icons and a timeless one too. What really makes this one work is the tremendously radiant and fetching Gretchen Mol who really does sincerely morph into Bettie Page's buxom shape and spirited persona. It's an admirably flawless and confident performance. Some of the forlorn encounters/or dilemmas facing her character could have tipped her over the edge or mentally damaged her, but she always seemed to find some sort strength to pull through it. The rest of the performances are truly fitting. Chris Bauer and Lili Taylor are outstanding as Irving and Paula Klaw who set-up and photographed Page's bondage pictures. An impulsive Jared Harris has fun with his part, and has some amusing scenes with Mol that really open up her character. Sarah Paulson, Cara Seymour and John Cullum are also good. Filmed mostly in black and white, Harron presents an ideal period flavour of the times (the 1950's --- sexual repression) and inserts some provocatively stylised filming techniques and a tuneful jazz score. Maybe not as outrageous as it could have been (well anyhow it would be tame by today's standards), but still its quite quirky and risqué in a tasteful sense with exposing flesh/nudity. Page rightly saw nothing wrong about what she did, just another expressive art form but this did affect her ambitions of becoming a serious actress. The story does seem to loose its way in the last third, as it's dramatic structure becomes choppy and briskly concluded. It was an interesting look at the exploration of sexuality and the growing pop-culture that a society at the time couldn't understand or come to grips with.
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Now some people when they look at a movie like this might be, this is just sex. The truth is, it is so much more than that. Does it happen to contain nudity? And is the main character a sex symbol? Yes and yes. However, give it a chance, and you'll notice that it is indeed sexy but it's also moving and powerful and way more than porn; i.e: boobs. Gretchen Mol is fantastic as Bettie Page, I can not imagine any other woman portraying the role. And making it clear that this movie is meant for the story of the woman, and not the story of her body, is the fact for the first half hour or so, there isn't even any nudity. Instead the movie is about the life of a symbol and trend setter, Bettie Page. My only complaint with this wonderful movie is it's length, it doesn't dive deep enough, however so many movies telling true stories about people are overly long and in that sense it's massively refreshing to learn about someone in a shorter amount of time and being entertained throughout. Great movie. Rent it or buy it, I'd heavily recommend purchasing it though, this is one you'll definitely want in your collection. This is not a guy's movie, but guy's can enjoy it too for other reasons than oogling Gretchen's portrayal of Bettie.