The Notorious Bettie Page

"God gave me the talent to pose for pictures.”

For Mary Harron’s third feature film, she went back to the biopic well. For this film, she focused on the rise of pornographic images told through the lens of the life of Bettie Page, one of the top pin-up models of the time. Having a woman direct the film helps ensure the male gaze won’t dominate in a film about this subject, but that doesn’t mean the film works as well as it should. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we wrap up our short Mary Harron series with her 2005 film The Notorious Bettie Page.

We talk about the biopic structure of the film and why it feels like Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner struggled to find the core of the story they wanted to tell. We chat about Gretchen Mol and how perfect she is in the role, and why she’s really the only reason to watch the film. We discuss the nature of the porn industry as depicted in the story and the different elements of it, and how the film never feels like it’s feminist enough or taking a stand. It always feels safe. We look at the shift between black and white and color and why it never feels fully thought out. And we chat about Page herself and how she was such an icon that still influences pop culture.

It’s a Hallmark-feeling biopic, albeit with nudity, and one we struggled with, even though it does have a wonderful central performance. Regardless, we had a great time talking about it so tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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