Misbehaviour is a 2020 drama directed by Philippa Lowthorpe and based on a true story that follows a group of women from the Women’s Liberation Movement as they attempt to disrupt the 1970 Miss World pageant being held in London.
Misbehaviour made a decision to follow four separate stories as they eventually intersect at the Miss World pageant, and I think this is to its detriment, as it seemed to dilute the main issue about women’s inequality. It follows Sally (Keira Knightley), a history student wanting her place at the table, as she joins forces with Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), a radical feminist from the Women’s Liberation Movement who believes in taking physical action as the plot to disrupt the pageant. It also follows 3 other storylines centred around the pageant itself: Eric (Rhys Ifans) and Julia Morley (Keeley Hawes), the creators of the Miss World Pageant as they attempt to respond to controversies surrounding it; Miss Grenada Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as she takes part in the contest and; Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) who is hosting the pageant. All of these stories together, whilst interesting, mean that not enough time and detail is given to each individual storyline, especially with an under two hour run time.
The film begins with some fairly shocking male behaviour from Sally’s university interviewers and Bob Hope, but sadly it doesn’t carry on in this vein throughout. Had the entire film focused on the behaviour and attitudes women had really experienced during the 70s, it would’ve been a lot more hard-hitting and engaging. Instead, it comes across as a little too light-hearted. The most disturbing scenes were those involving Bob Hope and his clearly inappropriate behaviour, and Greg Kinnear plays him very well although the prosthetic nose is a tad distracting. However, the problem with Hope is that his scenes, whilst good, are entirely unnecessary when linked to the main plot and are a big contributor to the dilution of the story.
Misbehaviour looks good, the costume and sets are very in keeping with the time period and so is the music. It also has a rather stellar cast, all of whom put in performances that are very good and not to be criticised – Rhys Ifans provides some much needed comic relief as pageant creator Eric Morley. The standout of all of these is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Jennifer, who brings poise and intrigue to a character with barely any lines and leaves us wanting more. And sadly due to the intersecting storylines, we don’t see enough of her until right at the end, which was far too late. It was also nice to see the real women that inspired this film featured before the credits and find out how they moved forward with their lives.
Overall Misbehaviour is a decent film with good performances with an important message and story to promote. I just wish that instead of trying to tell this story from the point of every key player involved, they had focused on the central subject of the inequality women experienced at the time as this would’ve made Misbehaviour a lot more memorable.