As the much anticipated release for “The Notorious Bettie Page” draws nearer (Gretchen Mol as Bettie Page = sexual fantasies for the next six months), one of the most iconic pop culture figures of all time is gaining yet another resurgence, and Page’s immense fan base are swimming in exposure of their idol. Along with the acclaimed upcoming film that I am also anticipating, comes “Bettie Page: Dark Angel” another semi-biographical film about one of the most revered pin-up girls of all time. Hey, you can have your Marilyn Monroe’s; there’s something about Bettie Page that just attracts people to her be you man or woman. She was so unbridled, independent, and enigmatic; just a woman who broke the mold, and that’s admirable, and it’s tough not to become a fan. As for “Bettie Page: Dark Angel”, the creators here make an admirable attempt at approaching the topic of Bettie Page with a sense of originality.
“Dark Angel” chronicles the last legs of her career as a star in bondage films which is re-enacted on-screen in full length, and then we witness how Bettie Page struggled to get by with those starring turns. Paige Richards is gorgeous and really resembles Page, while looking like she’s having fun starring in the dramatizations of the bondage films, but I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that “Dark Angel” didn’t have a full idea of where it was heading. Richards can handle the porn aspect of the film in her dead on mimicking of the bondage shorts, but acting wise, she never convinced me she was a girl looking for a career beyond pin-ups and bondage. Most of the film’s narrative is Page in the films, and then canoodling and interacting with her friends and boyfriend, and it’s a consistent formula jumping from bondage to plot without any real bridge to gap them. Thus it comes off as forced.
On the flipside though, “Dark Angel” is inspiring because instead of showing its low budget by clinging to its bio-pic conventions, and unable to make the film that they’d envision, the turn is much more unique showing Page’s life in small vignettes, and then showing her bondage films without ever really cutting away. Page clutches to her career auditioning as much as she can and never being taken seriously as the actress she wants to be, and is basically forced in to starring in these bondage films just to collect a paycheck. In spite of the often mixed story of Page’s remaining career, you have to wonder if these films were for fun, or just to collect a paycheck being forced in to a corner. “Dark Angel” gets a surefire A for effort because it makes no bones about itself and makes good use of its low budget, but as for its delivery it’s often weak without a truly coherent interesting story to keep us planted in our seats.