INTEREST LEVELS VARY, but every red-blooded American knows a thing or two about Bettie Page. Still among the nation's top posthumous celebrity earners (she passed away in 2008), the '50s-era pin-up star's influence can be found in everything from Beyoncé videos to the blunt-cut bangs of women all over the world. Director Mark Mori's Bettie Page Reveals All stands out among other biographical treatments primarily because of the fact that Page herself narrates it, by way of audio interviews he conducted with her about a decade before her death. While much has been made of Page—her mysterious and troubled private life, her arguable status as a catalyst for the sexual revolution—it's reassuring to hear her verify her own, rather guileless, intentions. Though an exercise in adoration, Reveals All does an impressive job of covering both the facts of her life and others' reflections on it.
If anything, Mori spends too little time dwelling on the unhappier phases that book-ended Page's career. It's for the most part all there, technically—the poverty, sexual abuse, schizophrenia, religious zeal, stabbing, and institutionalization. It's sad but interesting stuff, and worth considering when examining Page's career and making contentions on its significance, but it's given relatively little screen time, and addressed only with sympathy. Instead, Mori spends the majority of the film lavishing praise on Page's work by way of interviews with Hugh Hefner, photographers who worked with her, and old boyfriends, all of whom talk about what made her special, like her playful, happy nature, and her comfort with her sexuality at a time when sex wasn't even publicly acknowledged as a normal part of life.
It's perhaps no accident that Mori focuses on the high points—Reveals All does, after all, belong to the suspect category of "authorized biography." Page apparently rubber stamped the film at whatever phase it was in at the time of her passing, and the film ends with a quote written across the screen: "I want to be remembered as I was in the pictures." It's an edict that Mori largely adheres to, only once flashing a famously unflattering mug shot.
If you're expecting a counterpoint to the praise heaped on Page, Reveals All won't deliver. It is, however, a brisk, enjoyable history that seems to include nearly every photo taken of her—nudes, bondage, bikinis, and all.