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Movie Review – The Notorious Bettie Page ( 2005 – United States)

Updated on March 3, 2012

Speaking directly from personal experience, it's hard out there for a Bad Girl! It was no easier for Ms. Page, who broke all the rules back when there were a lot more rules to break. This is not a great film, but I'm still sticking with my 4 star rating, because Bettie deserves it, her story deserves it. It's also not a bad picture, by the way, it simply lacks focus. Then again, this is a rather accurate biography of a real human being. Which of our lives do not, to some degree "lack focus"? It's much easier to write fiction, in other words, because the writer can make up any plot ploy or ending they wish. Real life, not so easy.

Here's the really great trailer:

Decide for yourself; will you like it?

The film is also often criticized for being rather modest in tone—I think those reviewers were unaware that Bettie Page really did view the photos for which she posed as art, and believed in true freedom of artistic expression. Those photos were considered the most outrageous pornography during the 1950’s, when she modeled for Wink, Eyeful and the newest girlie magazine, Playboy. Today, the majority of those images seem quaint and tame, but the most extreme bondage shots retain their ability to shock. Nevertheless, from what she said in interviews, Page never thought those photos were anything but art, even after she retired from modeling and committed herself to Evangelical Christianity in the 1960’s. Reviewers disappointed that this movie does not try to shock us need to research the subject’s life before castigating the film makers for following the true story rather than making up a more prurient version. They are missing the satire in the title: Bettie Page was considered notorious in a time when sex was a taboo subject, and female sexuality a scandal. Today she would not be notorious, she’d be a mainstream superstar, because her lineage runs through Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Kathleen Turner, Madonna , Lady GaGa and to Katy Perry.

I therefore dub this film Recommended, with an asterisk that goes to the fine print, which reads: "Luv ya, Bettie! You go grrrl!"

Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.

(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at

Genre: Drama, biography

Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Directed By: Mary Harron

In Theaters: Apr 14, 2006 Wide

On DVD: Sep 26, 2006

Box Office: $1.4M

Distributed by: Picturehouse


Gretchen Mol - Bettie Page

Chris Bauer - Irving Klaw

Jared Harris - John Willie

Sarah Paulson - Bunny Yeager

Cara Seymour - Maxie

David Strathairn - Estes Kefauver

Lili Taylor - Paula Klaw


How would you define Bettie's photos?

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    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Yes, the best part of the movie is her performance. She also looks amazingly like the eal Bettie. Thanks for the comment!

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 5 years ago from The Garden State

      I enjoyed this movie. Gretchen Mol was great as Bettie!