Notorious Bettie Page, the - Not Notorious Enough
| It’s not really shocking anymore to find out that there is more than meets the eye to the beautiful woman in the exploitative photograph. We are all too aware that there is a living breathing human beneath that airbrushed skin who is someone’s daughter. We also understand well how she, like so many of us, are victims of a hypocritical, patriarchal society. We also hope somehow she manages to empower herself through a combination of self-exploitation and pure determination.
Therefore, for 21st century audiences, The Notorious Bettie Page doesn’t offer us anything new to digest. This biopic of one of the most famous pin-up models of the last century goes through the same motions as any film with this sort of subject.
She’s smart but facing unfortunate circumstances. She uses her beauty to make a life and keeps herself above it all throughout. She is a martyr of patriarchy and we are to admire her and pity her all at once.
The Notorious Bettie Page is as doe eyed and blindly optimistic as the character it portrays. Everyone acts in a time-period-appropriate yet wooden way where everything is politeness and smiles. The film, like Bettie, feels there is no harm in what she does. The examination of her industry is through rose-coloured glasses.
Not only is the issue of “pornography” (although few of us would refer to what she did with that word today) handled with kid gloves, so is the issue of censorship. The state, gleefully embodied by David Strathairn, is more minor nuisance than totalitarian oppressor. Strathairn, so brilliant in Good Night and Good Luck, doesn’t give half the weight to this issue as he did to that similar, but superior film.
The Notorious Bettie Page just wants to have fun, and it is fun. It’s just not that meaningful or interesting. More of a playful romp than a social piece… but maybe that’s appropriate too. As Bettie would say, “there’s no harm in it.”