Misbehaviour (2020) is a British comedy-drama that released in the UK right before the closures of cinemas. Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, this film stars Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessie Buckley. Based on the real events of the Miss World 1970 competition in London, the first Miss Grenada in Jennifer Hosten (Mbatha-Raw) takes part in the competition whilst a group of Women’s Liberation protestors try to take down the event and what it stands for.
It should not be a surprise to anyone given the cast list, but the performances from every cast member is great. Keira Knightley is one of the most underrated actresses of our generation as she keeps giving performance after performance, choosing different roles every single time. She is versatile and she has to play a character here that has a lot going on, yet remain calm and tough throughout. When she goes for the emotion though, it hits. This film is also another one to add to Jessie Buckley’s growing filmography and another fun performance she gives here. If you haven’t yet taken notice of her, do it as quickly as you can.
For a film based around the Miss World 1970 competition, there was clearly a lot of work that needed to get done behind the scene to make the world come alive. I felt like I was getting sucked back into a decade I wasn’t even old enough to live in and every aspect was so tight. From the mass amount of costumes that had to be worn to the production design, not one detail was left out here.
This film focuses on two storylines that came from Miss World 1970, the first being of the first ever entry for Grenada. This was not the only time that skin colour was highlighted in the film though, as South Africa submitted two contestants, one being black. What I appreciated about the handling of this subject matter was how the characters themselves dealt with the situation. Racism was sadly normalised during this generation, and it comes across that way when other contestants don’t even realise that what they are saying actually sounds bad. This storyline had impact and it is sad that even in this day and age, the same racism exists in out current news outlets and media.
There is a second storyline, and that is where the Women’s Liberation group join in. Whilst I would argue that this is the main focus on the film, it is easily the weaker of the two. This storyline was heavily focused on feminism, and they make some great arguments on how Miss World could be seen as men putting power and objectifying women. However, the film makes some errors when it presents the ideas that women have to want to strive for something bigger and better than simply being a stay-at-home wife or mother. There is one character that argues that exact point, which I loved seeing, but then they take a turn and make that character change her feelings on that argument. Feminism to me is not just empowering women, but letting them do exactly what they want, even if they want to stay at home and look after their own children.
For a majority of the time, the film cuts between the two storylines. There will be a scene which goes backstage on the production of Miss World and the underlying racism that existed during that time. The next scene will be of the Women’s Liberation group planning their protest at the competition. This continues throughout and makes both subject matters feel disconnected. This is until one scene near the end of the film, which has so much impact and power because the two subject matters finally blend into one. This is the moment where feminism is shown at its most true form and I loved every moment of the speech that Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives. It is just a shame that it takes a majority of the runtime to get to that moment and make the entire film feel connected.
Whilst I wish the film handled some of the storylines better and made the film feel more connected, there is still plenty to enjoy with this tale. The performances are a lot of fun with a stellar cast, the world-building sucks you right into the early 1970s and this film does have a lot to say and some aspects still feel very important in today’s world. If you have access to it and some free time, it is a good time overall.
Have you had a chance to see Misbehaviour yet? Are you going to check it out once you are able to? Let me know all of your thoughts in the comments section.