The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Instagram

Biopic lets it all hang out

Here it is, SMU businessmen, the long awaited directorial follow up to the cult-classic, collar-popping favorite “American Psycho.”

That’s right – the ferocious female force behind cinema’s reigning Wall Street renegade is back. Now, before you fetch your butcher knives and honey-almond moisturizer, take a deep, calming breath and appreciate the fact that Ms. Harron and Ms. Turner have chosen a new (and nude) angle from which to attack their impressionable male audience.

While Christian Bale’s silken slasher appealed to the materialistic, homicidal maniac in all of us, he’s got nothing on Gretchen Mol. If that name isn’t familiar, it will be soon. Her portrayal of Bettie Page, the original pinup queen of the 1950s, is arousing not just to the flesh, but to the mind. Never mind the lingering, salty aftertaste of the racially and homosexually charged 77th Academy Awards – next year’s prizes can’t get here soon enough. Mol is that good (even when she’s dressed.)

The trouble is that she outshines every other aspect of the production. “The Notorious Bettie Page” is a pleasantly nostalgic motion picture, breezing along through such turbulent decades as the 1940s and 1960s, but never once does it mention Nazis or hippies. The focus here is on sex and how to photograph it. But remember, this is the 1950s, and images which inspired “gasp!” and “oh my!” back then hardly raise the temperature in the post-spring-break environment of today.

Shot mostly in black-and-white and on a modest budget, which impressively utilizes stock footage of the era, “The Notorious Bettie Page” is being released by HBO films and should expect minimal box office attention. While Mol is captivating, the rest of the cast is tragically misused. David Strathairn, fresh off his best actor nomination for “Good Night, and Good Luck,” hardly registers as a conservative newsman crusading for decency and censorship.

It is in the storytelling department, however, that “Bettie Page” disappoints most frequently. Far too many sequences play out like a collage of postcards, and this is a film with which audiences should swoon, not reminisce. After all, one cannot reminisce if one was not yet born. Occasional changes in locale (namely Miami) allow for one or two scenes of oceanic sunshine saturation, but these flourishes are inconsistent at best.

By and large enjoyable on a visceral level, “Bettie Page” never quite satisfies as an entertainment of substance. Chiefly noticeable among such shortcomings are the religious undercurrents of the film.

As Bettie’s tabloid popularity soars, along with gentlemen’s trousers, she journeys inward, seeking some kind of enlightenment or moral justification for pioneering, among other taboo fetishes, bondage. When the film comes to a close, Bettie has clearly realized something spiritual and righteous about her nudist adventures, but damned if the audience has a clue what’s going on inside that pretty little head.

More to Discover