A group of women hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.
Ostensibly about the origins of the Woman’s Liberation Movement (WLM) and their protest at the 1970 Miss World competition, ‘Misbehaviour’ is a light and breezy movie that balances the serious points at its heart with comedic undertones. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film splits its time between the WLM and the ‘Miss World’ contest and amongst this ensemble it manages to tell some really strong individual stories amidst a wider story about sexism and the advancement of women’s rights.
Keira Knightley leads the ensemble as Sally Alexander, a young woman trying to balance her career aspirations with bringing up a daughter at home. Whilst organizing an event she is introduced to Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), a feminist activist who challenges Sally’s gradualist beliefs and brings her round to the need for a more radical approach to move their cause forward. Collectively they form the Women’s Liberation Movement, and the upcoming ‘Miss World’ competition is an ideal opportunity to raise their profile in front of a large television audience worldwide. We also spend a lot of time with the ‘Miss World’ organisers and contestants, following the build up to the event before both storylines converge as we reach the event itself and the film’s conclusion.
Much of the comedy comes from the ‘Miss World’ section of the film, with the inherent ridiculousness and outdated sexism of the event brought to the fore, although I felt the film balanced the broader comedic slant with the personal victories of contestants Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the Grenadian candidate, and Pearl Jansen (Loreece Harrison), the first Black contestant representing South Africa during the Apartheid era. ‘Misbehaviour’ sets out to show that ‘Miss World’ is an inherently sexist event that portrays women as little more than sexual objects, yet it also shows the other side with the pride that some contestants feel at their involvement, with this clash articulated well in a conversation between Hosten and Alexander where both share their views.
I thought ‘Misbehaviour’ was a thoroughly entertaining film that made its points well without being preachy, using its ensemble well to tell the stories of these women who found themselves involved in the same event from slightly different perspectives. With the impending cinema shutdown, hopefully it’ll be available to stream shortly so it can get a wider audience.
Directed By: Philippa Lowthorpe
Starring: Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Lesley Manville, Greg Kinnear, Keeley Hawes, Rhys Ifans, Phyllis Logan, John Sackville, Suki Waterhouse, Clara Rosager, Loreece Harrison, Emma Corrin, Collet Collins, Emily Tebbutt, Monica Sarup, Delly Allen, Taina Haines, Lily Newmark, Emma D’Arcy, Ruby Bentall, Alexa Davies, John Heffernan and Maya Kelly