Neither a mock-heroic cockeyed success story like Ed Wood nor a Walk the Line-style hagiography, Mary Harron's facile but hugely entertaining black-and-white biopic seems most interested in its subject -- a studious southern girl who became the world's most celebrated fetish pinup -- as an object. A zippy, startlingly sweet elegy for the relative innocence of postwar smut, it casts Page's early years in fairly conventional lives-of-the-famous terms, briskly sketching her religious roots and unhappy adolescence in Nashville. But the movie's Bettie, played with sunny forthrightness by Gretchen Mol, passes from one eager shutterbug to another, culminating in her "notorious" bondage shoots with photographer Irving Klaw (Chris Bauer) and his mother-hen sister Paula (Lili Taylor). The movie is disappointingly slight as a biography, but Mol makes a bigger impression than she ever has onscreen before, and cinematographer Mott Hupfel's silvery evocation of the 1950s is never less than gorgeous.
Director: Mary Harron
Writer: Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner
Producer: Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel and Christine Vachon
Cast: Gretchen Mol, Lili Taylor, Jonathan M. Woodward, David Strathairn, Cara Seymour, Tara Subkoff, Kevin Carroll and Molly Moore
The Notorious Bettie Page