A biopic based on the life of burlesque queen and icon Bettie Page, this film mirrors the lady in question by being rather appealing on a superficial level but containing little of any real substance.
The script skips over the abuse and indignities of her early life in a way that almost seems dismissive, concentrating instead on parading the appropriately earthy beauty of Gretchen Mol around in various states of undress. There is little in the way of conflict or drama to the story and as such is really an exercise in eye candy; it’s attractively shot in Film Noiresque black and white, occasionally switching to aping the garish technicolor of the time – although I couldn’t help wishing that they’d just picked one and stuck with it – and features some attractive costume design. It’s also complimented by a quality supporting cast including the always watchable Lili Taylor and an amusing turn by Jared Harris as a booze-sodden photographer, but ultimately there’s very little to it. When by far the most promising aspect of the story featuring a senatorial tribunal on public decency fizzles away to nothing it becomes obvious that the plot is as scanty as some of Ms Page’s outfits and I didn’t really feel it justified an hour and half of my time.
The Notorious Bettie Page is contains a few chuckles at the expense of 1950’s naivete and little more.