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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Misbehaviour (M) - 107 minutes

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Miss World 1970 gave momentum to the Women’s Liberation Movement.

Based on fact, Misbehaviour gives us the behind-the-scenes story of how an action at the pageant made front page news around the world.

Not surprisingly, there was much happening in the lead up.

The film focuses on a series of people within the Movement and at the pageant who were prominent at the time.

At the forefront is Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley), who left school at 15, got married, had a baby and is now looking to go to college to study history.

A serious woman, when interviewed to determine whether she gets in, she is met with blatant sexism.

Nor does she see eye to eye with her mother, Evelyn (Phyllis Logan), on the role of women in society.

Mind you, she is hardly impressed by the anti-establishment militant types who she encounters more than once.

Amongst them is Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), who is bold and brassy – not afraid to shake things up – and part of a commune.

Curious, attending one meeting of the collective sees Alexander drawn in.

Before you know it, plans are afoot to target the Miss World pageant, run by the overtly sexist Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) and his wife Julia (Keeley Hawes), for objectifying women.

They have known ladies’ man Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) as their special guest.

His wife, Dolores (Lesley Manville), is hardly enamoured by Hope’s behaviour, especially as it is an established pattern.

The pageant this year also welcomes coloured entrants following a backlash from a journalist.

Their arrival serves to highlight the discrepancies between black and white.

The underlying message of Misbehaviour is unmistakable and powerful even if its treatment is inclined toward the comedic.

The subject matter could easily have been turned into a straight drama, which would have resulted in a decidedly different tone.

I dare say the writers Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe would have thought populist treatment could attract a bigger audience.

Having said that, conflict remains the key to its execution.

The representation of the naive ‘70s strikes a chord.

Several of the performances are noteworthy for the strength of their characterisations.

Foremost amongst them are Knightley for her stoicism, Buckley for her attitude and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who plays the first Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten) for her restraint.

Manville, too, impresses with her undercurrent of disdain.

While hardly a world beater, Misbehaviour – directed by Philippa Lowthorpe – is an easy watch, if fundamentally lightweight fare.

Rated M, it scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.


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