Misbehaviour revisits the 1970 Miss World competition which pronounced the arrival of the Women’s Liberation Movement.
The film arrives in the United States at an interesting time. For the last few weeks, there has been much debate about Cuties. While I’ve yet to see that film, Misbehaviour serves as a reminder that the treatment of women in society is nothing new. All you have to do is look at these pageantry competitions–not just the ones for children but for young women as well. Bob Hope’s monologue during the Miss World competition is also misogynistic in nature. A comedy legend he might be but wow, the jokes about women do not age well at all. The sexist jokes lead to a protest inside the theater.
Against the backdrop of the competition, the Women’s Liberation Movement decides to make their name known. And make it known they did! While the competition was delayed, what happened next would also be a historic moment for the program. Going into the evening, Miss Sweden had been the favorite. Instead, Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), won. Viewers would see the first Black woman taking home the crown. A history-making moment!
Programs like Miss World are a reminder of the cis-sexist beauty standards that exist. It is men have a history of defining women’s beauty instead of women themselves. Even when transgender women come out, passing is important and we go right back to the sexist beauty standards. How is one able to feel beautiful when men have too much of a say in what is and isn’t beautiful? Credit to people like Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley) in leading the charge.
When husband-and-wife team Eric (Rhys Ifans) and Julia Morley (Keeley Hawes), need a host for the 1970 Miss World competition, they turn to the reliable Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear). However, Hope makes his newest intern persuade him to host the show. Dolores Hope (Lesley Manville) can only look on in disgust.
In watching the formation of the Women’s Liberation Movement, one can see how Sally and Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) have similar goals but differing views of how to get there. Robinson comes off as immature. When Sally and Jo start running away from the cops, you start to get a sense of maybe these two will become friends after all. A news report on TV sets Sally down a path in which she knows she can’t go back. All the while, Sally’s daughter, Abbie, is pretending to be in such a competition show until the TV set is turned off.
The toughest part of watching Misbehaviour is buying into the idea of Greg Kinnear as legendary comedian Bob Hope. Kinnear is horribly miscast in the role especially since Hope was nearing 70 when the film was released. It isn’t only Kinnear’s age at being over a decade younger but the actor can’t even capture Hope’s look in general. I hate say that it took me out of the film but he did. This just speaks to the challenge of capturing a legend on screen in general. The performance either works or it doesn’t.
While Kinnear’s presence takes the film back, the presence of Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Jessie Buckley draw you right back in. Their portrayals remind us.
Misbehaviour has an important message and despite the performances from much of the cast, the miscasting does itself no favors.
DIRECTOR: Philippa Lowthorpe
SCREENWRITERS: Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe
CAST; Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Keeley Hawes, Phyllis Logan, with Lesley Manville, Rhys Ifans, and Greg Kinnear