Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Notorious Bettie Page (2006)

Entertaining enough but hollow biopic -- this is the life-story genre reduced to the level of costume jewelry. Given the subject, that approach seems appropriate, but it's a rather self-defeating tactic; though thematically proper, the all-surface-all-the-time method of telling Bettie Page's story makes the film slip through the brain like a pig coated in Teflon. The only memorable aspect of this is, unbelievably, Gretchen Mol as the title character. Lord knows whether she learned to act during her long exile from the Hollywood A-list or if this is just a lightning-in-a-bottle turn a la Summer Phoenix in Esther Kahn, but she's pretty magnificent here, summoning up reserves of wholesome sauciness and unflappable cheer in service of the incarnation of a woman who reached literal iconic status. She's the living embodiment of a Page centerfold. Still, I didn't realize just how successful her disappearance into the role had been until the credits, where we see what looks like old stag-loop footage of a Page strip show. I watched nearly the entire thing before realizing that it was still Mol. Good for her.

Grade: C+


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