Movie review / ‘Misbehaviour’ (M)

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Miss Grenada… the first black woman to win the Miss World contest.

“Misbehaviour” (M) *** and a half

PHILIPPA Lowthorpe has directed a skilled cast to tell what happened at the 1970 Miss World pageant in London. 

While Rebecca Frayn’s screenplay together with Gaby Chiappe (whose feature film debut this is after an impressive career writing UK TV series) may not satisfy modern women committed actively to continuing the liberation movement, the birth of which this film commemorates. Nevertheless, there are strong grounds for accepting its authenticity – the closing credits confirm that the actual women whose activities “Misbehaviour” relates were available to vouch for the authenticity of the film’s portrayals.

The comfortable telling of an uncomfortable story about the lead up to and disruption of the Miss World judging depended on getting the writing right before a frame of film got shot. The women, each of whom went on to academic careers proudly sporting a criminal record on their CVs, had had enough of men treating women as subordinates, as inferiors, as flesh to be displayed for satisfaction of male urges, you name it, they’d had enough. 

The film doesn’t deal kindly with the men who were running the contest. They were going to make money from candidates whose only qualification for being there was their bodies, exposed to the extent that the law permitted. 

England-born movie comedian Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) had been chosen to MC the final judging. The film exposes his professional weaknesses – the gags that made his reputation were not spontaneous as a wall of filing cabinets displays.

Keira Knightley delivers some pungent lines as divorced mother Sally Alexander who together with Jo (Jessie Buckley), Sarah (Ruby Bentall), Jane (Lily Newmark) and Abi (Maya Kelly) spent a night in prison after disrupting the black-tie final judging ceremony that awarded the crown to Jennifer Hosten – Miss Grenada (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) – the first black woman to win the contest.

“Misbehaviour” delivers the story in documentary-ish style that neither overwhelms its message nor diminishes its entertainment value. I saw it at a “mums and bubs” session at which the cinema’s policy of lowering the volume diminished the sharpness of the dialogue at times. That didn’t bother several bubs who expressed their views about the film with gusto.

At all cinemas

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"Misbehaviour" (M) *** and a half
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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